Preserving The Last Ocean

It’s been described as the last ocean, the most pristine marine ecosystem on earth. The Ross Sea is a deep bay within Antarctica’s Southern Ocean, approximately 3500 miles south of New Zealand. Isaac Chestler brings us a report on John Weller, a photographer whose work helped to protect these fish and their ecosystem. An exhibit of Weller’s work is currently on display at CU Boulder.


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photo credit:Brocken Inaglory/Wikimedia Commons


Weller says the Ross sea is the most productive marine ecosystem on earth.

“It was a toothfish fishery. A fishery for Antarctic toothfish, and Antarctic toothfish are the top predatory fish in the Southern Ocean. They play critical roles in the ecosystem, as predator and as prey. And there was this fishery that had moved down into the Ross Sea, it was ramping up to industrial levels of catch without any of the knowledge necessary to make a sustainable fishery. About the only thing they did know was they live at like five thousand feet.”

There have been international efforts to preserve the Ross sea. On October 28, 2016, 24 Nations and the European Union officially established the Ross Sea as a Marine Protected Area. Weller says this is a significant step, but more needs to be done.

“Yeah and it’s just a starting place because what we really need to do is protect our ocean on a global scale. And not just in creating marine protected areas but in remaking our industries, our ocean industries to be sustainable. The most dire analysis is that since 1950 we’ve eaten ninety percent of the world’s top predatory fish. You know there are 2 billion people on this planet who depend directly on the ocean for their food. All of those people are at risk. Our production of fish, global production of fish, or catch of fish I should say, has been declining since the 1980s. Nobody wants to talk about this, but we’ve reached peak fish. If you extrapolate this we’re looking at massive human die-off. That’s what this leads to. Nobody wants to say that but that’s what this leads to.”

An exhibit of Weller’s photos of the Ross sea is currently on display at CU Boulder’s Museum of Natural History. Find out more about the exhibit at, and find out more about efforts to preserve the Ross sea at

Isaac Chestler is a student at CU Boulder’s CMCI.


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