The World Wildlife Fund has been trying to gather support to establish a network of marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean in an attempt to mitigate increasing ecological pressures in the area from climate change, invasive species, and commercial fishing. The plight of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean has often been overlooked compared to the rapidly melting Arctic on the other side of the world. But recently the Antarctic has been getting increased attention — not just for its melty future, but the predicted bonanza of ocean-floor mining and other exploration that the melt could open up. Britain’s Foreign Office has confirmed it’s preparing to submit claims to the United Nations for rights to some 385,000 square miles of sea floor in the Southern Ocean under the U.N. Law of the Sea Treaty. Britain hopes to convince the U.N. to declare the area an extension of its territories, including the British Antarctic Territory as well as the Falkland Islands and South Georgia off the southeast coast of Argentina. New Zealand and Australia have also claimed parts of the Southern Ocean; Argentina and Chile will likely do the same.

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