Adélie Penguins, Waterboat Point, Antarctic Peninsula, Gonzáles Videla Base (Chile). / ©: Greg & Kate Bourne / WWF-Aus
The oceans around Antarctica are some of the most pristine in the world – and the last place on Earth still relatively untouched by human activity.

Antarctica is the coldest and windiest continent on Earth. It is key to understanding how our world works, and our impact upon it.

Why is Antarctica important?

The Antarctic ice sheet is the largest single mass of ice on Earth. It covers an area of almost 14 million km2 at its smallest, in summer, and contains 30 million km3 of ice. Around 70-85% of the fresh water on the Earth's surface is held in the ice sheet. This ice plays a vitally important role in influencing the world's climate, reflecting back about 80% of the sun's radiation and so helping to regulate global temperatures.

Antarctica is important for science because of its profound effect on the Earth's climate and ocean systems. The Antarctic has a crucial role to play in our understanding of global climate change. Year round, scientists at Antarctic research bases study the impacts of the pollution caused by humans worldwide on the environment.

This beautiful, icy ocean environment is also home to nearly 10,000 highly adapted species, many of which can be found nowhere else on the planet. Adélie and emperor penguins, albatross, Antarctic petrels and great whales, colossal squid and Weddell seals all thrive in Antarctic waters.

This is one of the most pristine marine environments on the planet and its protection will provide a true legacy for future generations.


Southern Ocean Map


View Antarctica and Southern Ocean in a larger map

2012 - Our year to make conservation history in Antarctica

This year CCAMLR (the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources), the international Convention that has the responsibility for conserving the marine life of the Southern Ocean, will make a decision on where to officially establish a number of Antarctic Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

The number and location of the protected areas has not yet been finalised.
WWF is pushing hard to ensure that CCAMLR commits to establishing the world’s largest network of MPAs in 19 ocean areas in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica.

What we are working towards is an order of magnitude greater than anything we have achieved before in the Antarctic.

Currently, only 0.2% of Antarctic waters are strictly protected. With the help of WWF supporters we are striving to have as much of the region as we can protected forever from the types of exploitation that have devastated so many of the world’s great marine areas - expanding fisheries, increased shipping activity and pollution.

It is the only way that Antarctic penguins, and other marine life, will be protected forever from the devastating effects of humans.