Government Declares Protected Area Covering South Georgia & The South Sandwich Islands

(Media release – 5th July 2022. —— Image Gallery: download here .docx  —— Notes for Editors: download here .docx )

Today, 5th July, the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) announced the designation of the entire landmass of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) as Specially Protected Areas, fulfilling the commitment it made in the ‘Pathway to Protection’.

This Terrestrial Protected Area covers over 3,800 km2 and complements the Marine Protected Area, which covers the whole 1.24m km2 maritime zone, thus ensuring that the whole of SGSSI lies within a protected area system. Together, these Protected Areas will be an exemplar in delivering holistic ecosystem management, sustainable use and world-class protection.

The Specially Protected Areas Order prohibits all entry to the South Sandwich Islands without a permit and lays the foundation for enhanced protection measures across South Georgia which will be the subject of further consultation.

The South Georgia Terrestrial Protected Area will conserve, protect and preserve the ecosystem and restore native biodiversity. It will ensure that activities are managed sustainably and those activities, such as research and media operations are assessed for their impact on the ecosystem and managed accordingly.  It will help deliver a sustainable tourist industry so that people will have the opportunity to experience these amazing habitats and develop collective knowledge about the biodiversity of the island. The Government aims to deliver a truly sustainable visitor experience, supporting this global rarity; an ecosystem in recovery.

Within the next 12 months, GSGSSI, in partnership with stakeholders, will develop a detailed management plan and enhanced regulations for the Protected Areas to ensure that the unique terrestrial ecosystems in the Territory enjoy the high level of protection they deserve.

This announcement is an important step in GSGSSI’s vision of ‘environmental recovery and resilience through world-leading evidence-based sustainable management’ as detailed in out stewardship framework Protect Sustain Inspire and its Delivery Agenda.  It will contribute to the UK Governments aims under the Convention on Biological Diversity to press for 30% of land and ocean to be protected across the globe.


His Excellency Nigel Phillips CBE, outgoing Commissioner for South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands said:

“As my tenure as Commissioner of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands drew to a close, I was delighted to sign the Order that designated the entire territory as a Protected Area.  This is another step in the implementation of Protect, Sustain, Inspire, the stewardship framework we have developed for the conservation of these unique Islands.  To maintain our progress in delivering an “Ecosystem in Recovery” is a passion all in the government hold dear.  It has truly been a privilege to lead such a great team and I know they will serve my successor equally well.”


Amanda Milling, Minister responsible for Overseas Territories, said:

“The Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) have made tremendous steps to reverse the impacts of unbridled human exploitation to the islands.  This move to designate the entire land mass a protected area continues the journey of an ecosystem in recovery and demonstrates the shared commitment to be an exemplar of environmental protection. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will continue to work closely with GSGSSI to support the implementation of the Terrestrial Protected Area and enhance the protection of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.”


Jonathan Hall, Head of UK Overseas Territories at RSPB, said:

 “From its vast penguin colonies that pepper the shoreline to its snow-capped mountain peaks, South Georgia is just exceptional. We’re delighted to see it continue its environmental leadership by protecting the entirety of these islands and making such a significant contribution to the global goal of safeguarding 30% of the world’s landmass in protected areas by 2030.”


Collin Clubbe, Royal Botanic gardens Kew, said:

“Once again GSGSSI takes a world-leading step to protect the unique biodiversity of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. In declaring the whole of the land mass of these islands a Specially Protected Area, GSGSSI can ensure that all activities can be controlled to ensure compatibility with conservation objectives. The terrestrial environment is fragile, particularly on South Georgia where it is recovering after successful invasive mammal control. The plant community is fragile in the face threats from invasive plants and climate change. Establishing a complete protected area system will support our efforts to ensure that it is the native plant communities that thrive providing the habitats for the many native species that are dependent on them. Congratulations.”


Amanda Lynnes, Director of Environment at IAATO, said:

“South Georgia is indeed a global rarity; people are spellbound by its spectacular beauty and wildlife. Through careful management, visitors have been inspired by its natural wonders for decades so we welcome this decision to safeguard the entirety of these islands for future generations. We look forward to contributing to the Protected Areas management plan, supporting sustainable tourism goals and creating ambassadors for South Georgia’s continued protection.”


Professor Dame Jane Francis, Director of British Antarctic Survey, which operates two research stations in South Georgia, said:

“This is such fantastic news – it’s great to see South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands trailblazing environmental protection and we’re proud that our research has contributed towards our understanding of this ecosystem and the wildlife there.”