This past fall, 24 nations joined together to create the world’s largest marine protected area. The 1.55 million square kilometer (598,000 square mile) area, part of the Ross Sea, is located off the coast of Antarctica. It’s home to vast numbers of fish, birds, and mammals, including leopard seals and orcas.

The agreement bans fishing and other human activities—except for some scientific research—in the protected area for the next 35 years. That will allow scientists to study the effect of climate change without the influence of overfishing, or harvesting more marine organisms than a population can replace, says marine scientist Andrew Wright, one of the leaders who created the reserve.