A crabeater seal hauled-out on ice in Antarctica. Antarctica is often placed at the bottom of the global map where it is easily forgotten. In reality, the continent is nearly 50% larger than the United States and has an entire ocean of its own: The Southern Ocean. Despite the Southern Ocean’s size, very little of it is protected. A massive new conservation proposal could change that. Exploited Waters The Southern Ocean is full of life, but it used to have a whole lot more. Today, much of the fish we eat is taken from Antarctic waters, whether it’s labeled as such or not. The krill, which support the incredible penguin, whale, and seal populations that make the continent famous, are similarly collected en masse, weakening this special ecosystem’s support system. Humans have greatly altered the Southern Ocean’s ecosystem, yet the exploitation of Antarctica is a relatively recent tale. In the 1790s, sealers began hunting the seals of the Southern Ocean for their thick pelts. Just 30 years later the seal population neared collapse, yet the extraction continued. Elephant seals, penguins, and whales were later hunted for their valuable oil. Each of their populations plummeted, too. An Adelie penguin walking […]

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