Leading scientists and environmentalists have launched a world-wide campaign to get the Ross Sea in Antarctica protected by the end of this year.
The Antarctic Ocean Alliance is asking for 3.6 million square kilometres of the Ross Sea and surrounding areas to be protected, with 19 specific marine reserves.
The alliance wants to influence the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Resources, which signs off on all matters to do with the water protection of the icy continent.
It has reviewed proposals put forward by New Zealand and the United States, and has almost doubled the size of the area they suggested should be protected.
The alliance, which began its campaign in Wellington, says the increase is to ensure endemic species are not wiped out.
The commission, which has signalled its intent to create protected areas, will meet in October to decide what areas should be safe-guarded.