Media Release Issued Following Calls To Ban Fishing In South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands

(4th June 2018, updated 19th June 2018 *)

Press release:

—starts—

The Government has become aware of recent media reports calling for the banning of fishing activity around South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands. The Government has already established a process to review the existing Marine Protected Area (MPA). This is an evidence-led process which welcomes input from all interested parties.

An MPA was established around South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands in 2012 on the basis of scientific evidence, with further protection measures added in 2013. The MPA extends over 1 million km2 with its primary aim being to ensure the protection and conservation of the region’s rich and diverse marine life. Sustainable and carefully regulated fisheries operate in designated areas and to world-class standards.

The Government has set up an open and transparent process to review existing protection and assess the evidence for strengthening it further. It has invited submissions from all interested parties and established an independently chaired Advisory Group with representation from all stakeholder groups.

Background

1. The MPA covers a total area of 1.07 million km2 and includes: the prohibition of all bottom trawling; depth restrictions which protect 92% of the seafloor from fishing; no-take zones, extending 12 nautical miles from the coast around South Georgia, totaling 20,431 km2; a network of benthic no-take-zones; and the closure of krill fisheries in the summer when krill-eating birds and marine mammals are breeding. No krill fishing currently takes place around the South Sandwich Islands.

2. The Government has established an independently chaired advisory group to assess the effectiveness of current management and monitoring measures, identify priorities for future scientific research and monitoring and provide advice on the degree to which evidence might support any revisions to management measures. The process is open and transparent.

3. The advisory group includes scientists, the fishing industry, the tourist industry, non-governmental organisations and an independent external reviewer. The review process has identified over 200 relevant, peer-reviewed, scientific publications since 2013 to inform the Group’s work. Experts have been invited to present evidence to the group in person. The Group will report in August, following which the Government will consider, and consult as necessary on, any changes to the MPA.

4. South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands is a haven for wildlife. They are home to about five million seals of four different species, and 65 million breeding birds of 30 different species. Having all but eliminated bird by-catch from fisheries within its own waters, the Government has launched an ambitious conservation effort with the help of the British Antarctic Survey and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to protect albatross from fishing activity outside its maritime zone.

 

* Great British Oceans (GBO) has requested the following clarification: “GBO is not anti-fishing. GBO has publicly recognized the high standards to which the South Georgia fisheries operate relative to some other Southern Ocean operations. Many of GBOs’ member organizations also work within an extensive range of other marine fora concerned with sustainable management of fisheries – not solely MPAs.”