Ross Sea: the last intact marine ecosystem left on the planet | Photo: Studinger/NASA

The European Union and 24 countries have signed an agreement to create the world's largest marine protected park in the Ross Sea.

The Ross Sea is a deep bay located in Antarctica's Southern Ocean. It was explored for the first time by James Ross, a British explorer, in 1841.

Over 1,549,000 km2 of the Ross Sea will now be under protection, and roughly two-thirds of the new marine park will be closed to fishing. The Ross Sea has been considered the last intact marine ecosystem left on the planet.

The Ross Sea is home to most of the world's penguins and whales and, according to scientists, the Southern Ocean produces about 75 percent of the nutrients that sustain life in the oceans of the world.

"It is home to one-third of the world's Adélie penguins, one-quarter of all emperor penguins, one-third of all Antarctic petrels, and over half of all South Pacific Weddell seals," notes Chris Johnson, ocean science manager at WWF-Australia.

"While this is undoubtedly good news, the agreement on the Ross Sea will expire in 35 years. According to the World Conservation Union (IUCN) guidelines, marine protected areas must be permanent. WWF has concerns that the Ross Sea agreement does not meet this standard."

The world's largest marine park will feature three areas: the general protection zone (no fishing), the special reserve zone (limited research fishing for krill and toothfish), and the krill research zone (controlled research fishing for krill).

Scientists believe that over 1,000 invertebrate species, 95 fish species, ten mammal species, and six bird species are found in the Ross Sea.