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only a mother...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Nicholls on Mount Sheridan

 News and Events

Weather

Pat Lurcock says weatherwise, they have had a couple of snowy spells with up to a foot on the ground at sea level so far. It has melted again since but can still be seen on the far hills. Tim and Pauline Carr, the Museum Curators reported some nice snow had arrived and they were able to ski from the front door a few weeks ago. The Col up by Mount Hodges is nice now, especially with their new Gucci skis! The British Antarctic Survey staff at King Edward Point report there is a chill in the air so winter is definitely on its way.


British Antarctic Survey

King Edward Point (Click to see the Station Diary)

The New Applied Fisheries Science Research Station at King Edward Point that opened on 22 March 2001 to assist the Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands with its policies to achieve a sustainable management of the commercial fishery.
'Fishing activity around South Georgia is regulated by internationally adopted measures agreed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). In contrast to other multilateral fisheries conventions, CCAMLR is concerned not only with the regulation of fishing, but also has a mandate to conserve the ecosystem. This ecosystem approach, which considers the whole Southern Ocean to be a suite of interlinked systems, distinguishes CCAMLR from other multilateral fisheries conventions. BAS scientists at King Edward Point are carrying out strategic research on many aspects of the biology and ecology of both the targeted resource species as well as dependent and by-catch species. This work will assist with the stock assessments and population modeling of target species currently conducted for the GSGSSI by the Marine Resources Assessment Group Ltd (MRAG), London and complement existing research conducted by BAS biologists in the Southern Ocean." (BAS Web Site)
The latest news from the station is the team caught a Patagonian Toothfish in the shallow waters Cumberland East Bay (200m). The wee fish was just over one metre in length, almost bigger than the scientist who caught it! They reported post scientific analysis its fillets were delicious. The taste was enhanced by the knowledge that they did not have to pay the shop price of £18 per Kilo (hence the nick name for this fish as being "White Gold").

 

Bird Island Station - Disastrous for Wanders (Click to see the Station Diary)

"Bird Island lies off the north-west tip of South Georgia. The island's northern coast consists mainly of sheer cliffs rising to 365 metres; the southern coast is more accessible with numerous beaches. The island is 5 km long, up to 800 m wide. Below 150 metres it is predominately covered in tussock grass with rock, scree and mosses above this altitude. There is no permanent snow or ice on the island; the yearly temperature range is from -10°C to 10°C.

Bird Island has a rich diversity of wildlife and is afforded special protection as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is home to about 50,000 breeding pairs of penguins, 30,000 pairs of albatrosses, 700,000 nocturnal petrels and 65,000 breeding fur seals. In total, that amounts to one bird or seal for every 1.5 m 2 making Bird Island one of the richest sites for wildlife anywhere in the world.

The main research programmes on Bird Island concern seabird and seal population dynamics, feeding ecology and reproductive performance. Long-term monitoring studies contribute to international environmental conservation objectives, including under the CCAMLR Ecosystem Monitoring Programme." (BAS web Site)

The Scientists report they have had a busy season. Some early heavy snowfalls together with strong winds have been catastrophic for a third of the Wandering Albatross population on a site called Top Meadows. Out of 123 nests 40 nests had failed in the first few weeks after hatching. It is fingers crossed for the remainder during their long breeding season.

Female fur seals are well known for the ferocity, indeed the author was pinned against the research hut in Husvik by a aggressive female and was rescued by 3 large Royal Marine Commandos this summer. Well on bird island this year a fur seal called Wendy by the scientists, from a science fiction book at the station, developed a very strange habit of seeking human company. During the programme to weigh seal pups she followed the scientist home to their station at the back of the beach. She stayed for a week and eagerly waited for a stroke, if she did not get enough attention she chased the scientists to the door and gently tugged their trousers to ask for a cuddle. After day seven she went off to sea for 10 days to feed and now she is back for lots of cuddles!

Wonderful news off the North Cliffs the scientists have seen numerous whales. They report they saw a group of Killer whales in the evening off Willis Island. As the sun set they saw through binoculars unidentified baleen whales in the distance. They saw numerous blows of distant whales that looked a bit like fireworks in the evening light as the sun sank below the southern ocean. They walked back to their base under snow.

RRS Ernest Shackleton finally left South Georgia last week after spending a week waiting for conditions to die down so that they could get workboats to Bird Island. She also took off scientists returning home after the summer season and some maintainers.



Commercial Fishing

There is a Japanese crab fisher in the region that has been catching up to a ton of crab a day in pots on the seabed. Pat said this week (29 April) 15 Longliners join the fishery, targeting Patagonian Toothfish. He says he hopes to repeat last year's success in reducing bird mortalities to near-zero by insisting on full implementation of the CCLMLR Conservation Measures aimed at mitigating this mortality.

Around 20 vessels registered in a number of countries including the UK (Falkland Islands), Chile, Uruguay, Spain and South Africa are licensed each year by GSGSSI to fish within South Georgia's 200 nautical mile Maritime Zone. Currently three species are exploited commercially from the cold rich waters around South Georgia. A longline fishery for the Patagonian toothfish ( Dissostichus eliginoides ) takes place during the austral winter with catches of the Mackerel icefish ( Chamsocephalus gunnari ) taken by pelagic trawlers during the austral summer. Antarctic krill ( Euphausia superba ) are fished during the winter months as fishing grounds further south towards the Antarctic continent become icebound. Exploratory fisheries for both stone crabs ( Paralomis spp. ) and squid ( Martialia hyadesi ) have recently taken place within the South Georgia Maritime Zone and it is thought that unexploited stocks of these species have the potential to support new commercial fisheries.



Rat Eradication

Brown rats introduced to South Georgia by sealers some 200 years ago have devastated the numbers of burrowing petrel colonies and the endemic South Georgia Pippit in about two thirds of the island' coastline tussac fringe and many offshore islets. Sally Poncet is leading a study to eradicate the blighters. Last year experts from New Zealand's Department of Conservation started a two year research programme. A small baiting trial commenced in November 2000 on Grass island in Stromness Bay.
Six baiters broadcast poison by hand and oil-soaked pine-wood "gnaw sticks" were positioned to monitor the presence of rats after baiting. Pre and post baiting surveys of abundance and distribution of the island's bird population were done to check if any birds had died from eating the rat poison. Results of monitoring 3 weeks and 3 months after baiting show there was no measurable impact on the bird population and no evidence of rat activity. Research continues into the feasibility of a rat eradication programme in more extensive mainland areas.

 

 

 

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