The countries that decide the fate of Antarctica reached a historic agreement on Friday to create the world's largest marine protected area in the ocean next to the frozen continent. The agreement comes after years of diplomatic wrangling and high-level talks between the US and Russia, which has rejected the idea in the past, the AP reports. Proponents of the reserve say it sets a precedent for multiple countries working together to protect a large swath of ocean, which falls outside any single nation's jurisdiction. The agreement covers an area about twice the size of Texas in the Ross Sea.
The deal was clinched after 24 countries and the European Union met in Hobart, Australia, this week. Decisions on Antarctica require a consensus among the 25 members, a hurdle that has confounded past efforts. The marine protected area covers 617,000 square miles. There will be a blanket ban on commercial fishing across about three-quarters of that area, though a small amount of fishing for research purposes will be allowed throughout the protected area. In a statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said the agreement "will safeguard one of the last unspoiled ocean wilderness areas on the planet—home to unparalleled marine biodiversity and thriving communities of penguins, seals, whales, seabirds, and fish." (Read more Antarctica stories.)