Greenpeace has launched a global campaign to turn a vast area of sea around Antarctica into the world's biggest sanctuary.
The charity has sent a research vessel is on a three-month voyage to document how the native wildlife could be affected by climate change, pollution and fishing.
The proposed reserve - 1.8 million square kilometres, or five times the size of Germany - would help protect species including whales, seals and penguins that habit in the area.
Will McCallum, from Greenpeace's Protect the Antarctic Campaign, said it would preserve the Antarctic's ecological balance by banning fishing in a vast section of the southern oceans.
"Throughout history we've seen that whenever new places open up to humans, we go in and we've exploited them. We've seen that time and time again with the fishing industry," he said.
"The Antarctic is no different. At the moment, we're seeing fishing companies wanting to expand what they're doing.
"They're fishing for this tiny, shrimp-like crustacean called krill. And, krill basically underpins the entire food web in this area.
"Every single animal, one way or another, in the Antarctic depends on these tiny little creatures."
Greenpeace says its proposed Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary in the Weddell Sea will be discussed by world nations at the next Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which takes place in Australia this October.