A vast Antarctic ocean region that is home to whales, penguins and a host of other animals may one day be off limits for some fishing and other potentially invasive human activities if the U.S. government has its way.
The United States recently submitted a proposal to create a 700,000-square-mile (1.8 million kilometers) protected area in the Ross Sea, a frigid region rich with ocean life that straddles the dividing line between East and West Antarctica.
The region is home to one quarter of the world's emperor penguins, half of the Southern Pacific population of Weddell seals and half of the world's Ross Sea killer whales, to name just a few of the remarkable species that dwell in the icy waters.
The proposed protected area consists of three regions, each of which would have its own set of limitations on fishing. The protections are aimed not only at preserving habitats for iconic species, but also at maintaining viable stocks of commercially valuable fish.
The United States submitted its proposal Sept. 7 to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, an independent international body established in 1982.
If the proposal is accepted, fishing vessels would be prohibited in some areas, but limited fishing would be allowed in others.