By J. Brock (FINN)
Scientific advice and a stakeholder consultation have resulted in the Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) announcing the addition of extra spatial and temporal protection to the existing South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands Marine Protected Area (SGSSI MPA). Additional measures will add extra protection to the SGSSI MPA, which was created in February 2012 and covers over 1 million km2 of the highly productive waters around the islands. As part of a long-term management and conservation strategy for the Territory, todays announcement will add to the existing no-take zones and establish:
" A seasonal closure of the fishery for Antarctic krill (from November 1st until March 31st) to avoid competition with krill eating predators (particularly penguins & fur seals) during the breeding season;
" Twelve nautical mile pelagic no-take zones around each of the South Sandwich Islands, protecting 18,042 km2, including important feeding areas of chinstrap and Adelie penguins;
" A ban on all bottom fishing deeper than 2250 m, which covers 920,000 km2 (an area similar to the size of Spain), to protect deep-water habitats;
" Additional closed areas to protect sensitive benthic fauna and provide refugia for the highly valuable Patagonian toothfish, covering 12,662 km2 (approximately the size of Northern Ireland).
Fishing shallower than 700 m was already prohibited, meaning that only 83,500 km2 (8%) of the sea-floor is available for bottom fishing. Bottom trawling was already banned throughout the MPA.
According to the announcement released on Monday, 21 January 2013, this combination of spatial and temporal (seasonal) closed areas ensures that the waters around South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands remain amongst the best managed in the world. Announcing the new protection from the Territorys administrative centre at King Edward Point, Nigel Haywood, Commissioner for South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, stated:
The waters around South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are among the most productive in the Southern Ocean, with very high biodiversity. We remain committed to the highest standards of environmental management in this unique and globally important UK Overseas Territory.
Following the establishment of the MPA in February 2012, we have sought expert scientific advice and consulted widely to ensure that the waters around South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are one of the best managed maritime areas in the world.
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are remarkable places, supporting an amazing density of wildlife. Our continued good management of this UK Overseas Territory demonstrates that, even in a place as special as South Georgia, you can have sustainable fisheries with minimum impact on the ecosystem. said Dr Martin Collins, Chief Executive of the Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands. He went on to say that this combination of spatial and temporal closures gives excellent protection to the abundant and diverse marine life of the region and provides an example of best practice in marine management that I hope other areas will follow.
Dr Phil Trathan, Head of Conservation Biology at the British Antarctic Survey, who advised the Government of South Georgia on the establishment of the MPA said:
The seasonal closure of the krill fishery reduces the potential competition between the fishery and the natural predators of krill, including for seals, penguins, and other seabirds, particularly during the summer months when they are rearing their offspring and have high energy requirements. Outside the breeding season these krill-eating predators have lower energy requirements as they do not need to feed their young, and many also leave South Georgia's waters."
He finished by saying that further developments in the management of the krill fishery will need to take into account the way that the fishery develops in the future and the way that climate change may alter ecosystems. At the moment such changes are difficult to predict, so the South Georgia government will need to remain vigilant to make sure that future management actions preserve the remarkable biodiversity in South Georgia's waters."
The MPA already includes significant areas of no-take zone (IUCN Category I) around the coast of each island. These no-take zones (over 20,000 km2 in total, equivalent to the total area of Wales) will protect the foraging grounds of many of the Territorys land-based marine predators such as penguins, seals and seabirds and protect the spawning areas of many demersal fish species.
GSGSSI will continue to licence fisheries for toothfish, icefish and krill in the MPA (outside of the no-take zones and closed areas) and use the revenue to patrol the region to prevent illegal fishing and undertake research and monitoring. These fisheries are extremely carefully managed, with both the icefish and toothfish fisheries certified as sustainably managed by the Marine Stewardship Council.
Further information can be obtained from Dr Martin Collins, Chief Executive, Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. E-mail: email@example.com; Tel: +870 382 359 033.