The Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) has announced a range of additional measures for its Marine Protected Area (MPA) which will greatly enhance the protection and conservation of the Territory’s rich marine biodiversity.
Drawing on the recommendations arising from the recent 5-yearly review of the South Georgia and & South Sandwich Islands Marine Protected Area, GSGSSI will extend the current Marine Protected Area legislation across its entire 1.24m km2 Maritime Zone.
No-take zones (NTZ), which will be closed to all commercial fishing activity, will be expanded to cover 23% (284,000 km2) of the MPA; an area which greatly exceeds the size of the UK. This new NTZ network covers key biodiversity hotspots at the South Sandwich Islands and protects the globally significant and unique South Sandwich trench.
In addition, a precautionary two month extension to the seasonal closure of the highly regulated fishery for Antarctic krill will limit fishing to the winter period between May and September, to reduce potential competition between the fishery and krill predators such as seals and penguins during their breeding seasons.
To further reduce potential human impacts upon the region’s ecosystem, GSGSSI will introduce a ban on the carriage and use of heavy fuel oil (HFO) by vessels operating around the South Sandwich Islands. This will mirror the prohibition already enshrined in international law for vessels operating south of 60 degrees South.
The use and carriage of HFO will be phased out completely across the entire SGSSI Maritime Zone by December 2020. GSGSSI will also enshrine in legislation the prohibition on the commercial extraction of mineral resources, whilst allowing for scientific research and related activities; also modeled on international law.
This enhanced protection adds to the comprehensive array of measures currently in place, including the total ban on all fishing using bottom trawls across all 1.24 million km2, the prohibition of all bottom-fishing activities at depths shallower than 700m and greater than 2250m and an extensive network of benthic closed areas designed to protect vulnerable habitats and species. (South Georgia Newsletter)