The marine environment supports rich plant and animal life, including penguins, seals, whales and albatrosses.
Just a few decades ago this region was virtually untouched by human exploitation. Today, it is under sustained attack from land, sea and air, putting many species at risk.
is pushing fish stocks to the brink of collapse, and leaving seabirds and mammals without enough food to survive.
The Southern Ocean has also become a dumping ground for rubbish. Each year thousands of animals ingest or get ensnared on discarded plastic, fishing nets and hooks, causing significant deaths.
But the greatest long-term threat to the region is climate change
With the ice-shelf melting and glaciers shrinking, the nesting and feeding grounds of the Emperor and Adélie penguins as well as other species are under threat.
, the foundation of the Antarctic food chain, is also facing a huge reduction in numbers, putting the entire marine ecosystem at risk.