The United Kingdom Minister for the Overseas Territories Mark Simmonds welcomed the announcement of a set of additional measures to safeguard the sustainable-use Marine Protected Area (MPA) around the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands.
This is an important part of the long term environmental strategy to protect the unique ecosystem of the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands.
The new measures, announced by the Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, include seasonal closures, a ban on all bottom fishing deeper than 2.250 meters, and additional closed areas within the existing MPA, which already covers over 1,000,000 km².
They will be monitored through a series of scientific programs and enforced by a dedicated patrol vessel designed to ensure sustainable management of fishing activity. The new measures will further protect biodiversity in the Southern Ocean and will reinforce South Georgia’s position as one of the highest scoring Marine Stewardship Council certified fisheries in the world.
Speaking after the announcement, Mark Simmonds said that he welcomed the Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands’ announcement to create additional measures to look after their Marine Protected Area.
“Their high standard of environmental stewardship and marine protection is crucial in protecting the unique and internationally important biodiversity in the Southern Ocean. I am delighted that the Government of the Territory continues to be among the world leaders in delivering marine and environmental protection.”
The additional measures will add extra protection to the SGSSI MPA, which was created in February 2012 and covers over one million km2 of the highly productive waters around the islands.
The new measures 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 2.250 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 metres 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.
Nigel Haywood, Commissioner for South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, stated that “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.”