The Government of South Georgia and the Sandwich Isles (SGSSI) recently announced some brilliant news: they have committed to extending official protection of their waters to the entirety of their maritime zone (the area of water surrounding the islands). This means 1.2 million km2 of water is now under protection, greatly limiting human activity in the area.
These waters, which support life ranging from krill to seals to whales, are vital in maintaining the biodiversity of arctic waters. Now, under this newly heightened level of protection, the hope is that they can continue to do so for years to come.
Twenty three percent of this MPA is now part of designated ‘no take zones’ (that’s 284,000 km2 - greater than the size of the UK), within which no commercial fishing can take place. These zones will help to protect marine life and seabirds from issues such as overfishing and the accidental bycatch of endangered species. Krill fishing will also be limited to a period of four months (between May and September) to avoid direct competition with species such as seals and penguins which feed on krill. This is a huge win for marine conservation and will help to protect the hundreds of species that rely on the islands and their surrounding waters to survive.
The SGSSI Government has already delivered some very promising conservation results – primarily through the removal of invasive rats from affected islands, which has allowed native biodiversity to begin to flourish once again. It is very encouraging to see the SGSSI Government making nature its priority, and we hope that the albatross of Bird Island will really benefit from these conservation efforts.
Protecting the waters around South Georgia also means protecting some of the most important foraging grounds for our albatross stars as they raise their chicks. Rich in krill and fish, they are the perfect places for parents to find meals for their quickly growing chicks. Safeguarding these waters will lower the need for albatross to compete with humans for fish and the likelihood of albatross being harmed by fishing operations. Let’s hope that Bobby our grey-headed chick and the new wanderer chick will benefit from these new levels of protection, and that it will help them to raise the next generation of albatross in the future.
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