Abstract Both the Convention for the Conservation of Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty provide for the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) for purposes of scientific study and to conserve unique features and components of the Antarctic marine ecosystem. This paper summarizes the case for including the Ross Sea within CCAMLR’s network of MPAs, following the discussion at the Working Group on Ecosystem Monitoring and Management (WG- EMM) meeting in South Africa this year. The Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) proposes, in part because the area meets several other internationally recognized biodiversity criteria for MPAs, that the Ross Sea shelf and slope become part of the CCAMLR network, allowing marine science to continue without interference from other, extractive uses that would alter ecosystem structure and dynamics. ASOC submits that protection of the Ross Sea continental shelf and slope is a high priority, as an area embedded within one of the regions recognized by CCAMLR through the bioregionalisation process in 2008, and by the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) and Committee on Environmental Protection (CEP), as priority areas for MPA designation. This paper outlines how the Ross Sea shelf and slope fulfill the criteria for selecting sites under the auspices of the Antarctic Treaty and CCAMLR for the designation of marine protected areas to conserve and enable the continued assessment of the structure and dynamics of a unique marine ecosystem. For perspective, this paper makes comparisons with the special area criteria under the Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD) and United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites. The Ross Sea is of high global importance in terms of its biodiversity, evolutionary significance, disproportional presence of many charismatic high-latitude species, and potential as a climate refuge and reference area for the detection of the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems. According to an independent analysis of human impacts on the world's oceans, the Ross Sea is the least affected large continental shelf ecosystem remaining on Earth (Halpern et al. 2008). If protected it would be the highest latitude habitat represented in a comprehensive and representative network of Southern Ocean MPAs, and has for decades been an area in which investigations have led the way in disclosing interannual, decadal and long-term effects of climate change on the hydrography and biota of a high latitude system. The Ross Sea benthos is especially rich and the abundance of its top predator species is unique. As the Continental shelf and slope contain most of the spawning/breeding, feeding, molting and wintering areas of these predators, ASOC submits that the Ross Sea should be protected as a unit.