South Georgia Newsletter, December ’17 – January ’18

This newsletter is not produced by GSGSSI; it does not necessarily reflect their views.
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South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands Heritage Framework and Strategy


The Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) is pleased to publish its Heritage Framework and Strategy for South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI). It provides an overarching heritage strategy for the cultural heritage of SGSSI.  Its purpose is to provide the framework in which the Government’s stated heritage aims and objectives, including those set out in the Government’s Strategy 2016-2020, can be enacted.

This publication follows a consultation on the draft strategy earlier in the year, a response to which has also been published here. The documents have been prepared for the Government by heritage consultants Purcell.

Download the Heritage Framework and Strategy for South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands here.

Chief Executive Officer

sgCrestWhiteGSGSSI has announced that the 3-year term of the Chief Executive Officer, James Jansen, will naturally conclude at the start of July 2018 and that a process is now underway to recruit a successor. James joined the Government in July 2015 from the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

It is the Government’s intention for a successor to take up the post in June to allow for a handover period.

Further information and the application form can be found here.

The deadline for applications is close of Friday 23rd February.

Launch of 2-Year Mackerel Icefish Licensing Round

The next icefish licensing round has been launched. The documentation here provides information for anyone applying for a licence to fish for mackerel icefish in the South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands Maritime Zone for the two years 2018 – 2019.

The Government has produced a Management Plan to accompany the documentation which seeks to provide a clear framework for the management of the fishery.

This licensing round will be established on the basis of existing fisheries legislation. In light of recent consultation the Government proposes to develop a new compliance and enforcement policy and updated fisheries legislation applicable to all fisheries for consultation in the first half of 2018. The intention is that this will be introduced at the end of the 2018 fishing season i.e. at the end of the first year of operation of the 2-year licensing round.


South Georgia Mackerel Icefish (Champsocephalus Gunnari)

End-of-Year Fisheries Update

In December, the Government provided an end of year fisheries update reporting on the annual fishing industry meeting, 36th meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, current and forthcoming fishery licensing rounds, and the 5-year Marine Protected Area review process.

You can read the full update here.

Invitation to Tender: Catch Verification Services

GSGSSI was pleased to issue an invitation to tender for the provision of services to verify toothfish and associated by-catch from vessels operating at South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands. Catch verification underpins the high standards of operation of the toothfish fisheries including Marine Stewardship Council certification, and they are an important element of the Government’s monitoring and surveillance.

The deadline for tenders is close Sunday 25th February.

More details here.

Platinum Wedding Anniversary Stamps


The most recent issue of stamps by the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands celebrated the 70th Wedding Anniversary of The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

In 2007 the Queen became the first British monarch to reach her Diamond Wedding Anniversary and in 2015 became Britain’s longest reigning monarch. Now, as the 96-year-old Duke of Edinburgh prepares for his retirement from public duties following decades of royal service and with the Queen in her 92nd year, they prepare to mark this new and historic milestone.

It was on 10 July, 1947 that the happy couple were pictured arm-in-arm at Buckingham Palace following the official announcement of their betrothal. The 21-year-old Princess beamed as she showed off the elegant engagement ring (made using stones from one of Philip’s mother’s tiaras) presented to her by her future husband, Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, who was 26 at the time.

Philip had served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War and was dressed in his smart naval suit for the engagement photos. He had renounced his Greek citizenship and titles (he was a Prince of Greece and Denmark by birth) and had become a naturalised British subject.

The love story of Philip and Elizabeth, who are distant cousins, is said to have begun back in 1939 when the young princess was just 13 years old. When they first met, during a royal visit to his naval college in Dartmouth, it was love at first sight. The dashing 18-year-old Philip is said to have caught her eye as he entertained her by jumping over tennis nets and they started to write to each other. The King’s official biographer, Sir John Wheeler-Bennett, recalled: “This was the man with whom Princess Elizabeth had been in love from their first meeting.”

Elizabeth could have married Philip when she was just 17, the age of his first formal request to be considered as a suitor, but her parents thought she was too young.

Philip was invited to spend Christmas 1943 with the royal family at Windsor Castle and by the end of the war newspapers were speculating about romance.

They married in Westminster Abbey on 20 November, 1947. On the morning of the wedding Philip was made Duke of Edinburgh by his father-in-law, the King. He would not become a prince again until 1957, when Elizabeth bestowed the title upon him.

Soon after their wedding the happy young couple welcomed the birth of Prince Charles in 1948, Princess Anne in 1950 and then within five years of their marriage, Elizabeth had acceded to the throne after the death of her father in February 1952.

On their Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1997, the Queen paid a touching tribute to her husband, saying: “He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years.”

The four stamp set features the following images:

55p Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh on board the destroyer Crusader, bound for Victoria in British Columbia during their Commonwealth tour, 18th October 1951. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

80p Queen Elizabeth II out walking with her husband, Prince Philip, 1970s. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

£1.05 Queen Elizabeth ll and Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh smile during a visit to Fiji in February of 1977. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)

£1.85 Golden Jubilee Visit to Suffolk. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh chat while seated during a musical performance in the Abbey Gardens, Bury St Edmunds during her Golden Jubilee visit to Suffolk on 18 July, 2002. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)

Further information at Pobjoy Mint Stamp Division.

SGSSI Featured in Blue Planet II

Blue Planet II, the nature documentary that explores the deepest and darkest realms of the world’s oceans returned to the BBC 16 years after the original program premiered. The footage was captured over four years and involved 125 expeditions to 39 countries and territories – including Bird Island, South Georgia.

The final episode of the series (‘Our Planet’ Episode 7) focusses on the people studying our oceans and the wildlife that depends on it. In this episode. Lucy Quinn, Zoological Field Assistant at British Antarctic Survey, based on Bird Island, highlights the impact of plastic on wildlife in Antarctica, including the wandering albatross.

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. Amongst these is the world’s only sub-Antarctic songbird, the endemic South Georgia pipit. Eleven of the 30 species of breeding birds on South Georgia are considered by the World Conservation Union to be threatened or near-threatened species. South Georgia is home to seven of the thirty species currently listed under the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatross and Petrels, and globally significant populations of penguins.

Conservation of the pristine nature of the environment of SGSSI is at the heart of Government activities. For a summary of how the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands is protecting this UK Overseas Territory for wildlife and for people, click here.


Albatrosses are ingesting plastic – Blue Planet II: Episode 7 Preview – BBC One

Staff News

New Visitor Management Officer

jamesRoss2Ross James has been appointed to the position of Visitor Management Officer. Ross will be focusing on biosecurity in addition to South Georgia’s tourism management.

Ross first saw South Georgia in 2003 from the deck of a fishing vessel during his time as a scientific observer. It was love at first sight and he has been involved with the South Atlantic region ever since. He is delighted to have the opportunity to combine his scientific knowledge and practical skills in this new role. Ross joins from the Falkland Islands Government where he worked as Biosecurity Officer.

Possession Day 2018


Portrait of Captain James Cook, by John Webber (BBC)

On 17th January 1775 a small party of men landed on a beach beneath snowy peaks and tumbling glaciers. In charge was an officer by the name of James Cook; the British Flag was planted, a volley of musket shot was fired, and the land was claimed for His Britannic Majesty. Cook named the bay in which he landed Possession Bay. On the 17th January 2018 (and every year) South Georgia marked ‘Possession Day’ with a bank holiday and reception at Government House.

James Cook departed London in 1772 on his second world voyage aboard HMS Resolution. One of his objectives was to determine the existence of a great southern landmass which had been hypothesised. As such, Cook’s could be considered the first Antarctic expedition. At first appearance South Georgia must have raised expectations that this was the landmass they were searching for; but as the ship charted the coast so the reality became clear. Cook’s view of South Georgia may have been influenced by this disappointment, as well as the bad weather. He referred to it thus:

“Lands doomed by nature to perpetual frigidness never to feel the warmth of the sun’s rays whose horrible and savage aspect I have not words to describe.”

The abundance of whales in the bays, beaches teaming with fur seals and albatross circling overhead couldn’t even entice his naturalist. Nonetheless, his discovery of South Georgia, and some of the South Sandwich Islands, was important; it informed future expeditions and sparked a long-term political and economic interest in the southern ocean.

South Georgia has probably changed little since Cook’s first landing and likely remains one of the few places today that would still be recognisable to him. Wildlife remains firmly in charge. Protecting wildlife and the wider environment is the highest priority of the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands. Perhaps because of the remoteness, mountainous terrain and inclement weather the island remains largely pristine; there are no permanent residents and the majority of the island – visited by nearly 9,000 tourists each year – is as wild as it was when Cook first saw it.

The high level of environmental protection of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands are a recent development. After Cook’s landing others came to capitalise on its rich resources. In the 1780s came sealing expeditions and in the early 1900s whalers began operating from shore-based facilities in some of the more sheltered bays on the north coast; over 175,000 whales were caught before the last station closed in 1966. While their exploitation severely depleted many populations it also triggered scientific research; the Discovery Investigations carried out between 1925 and 1951 yielded an enormous amount of data including the discovery of the Antarctic Convergence. This data also showed that the mass harvest of whales was unsustainable leading to tighter industry regulation. Since then, populations of the wildlife that Cook must have seen have started to recover, many spectacularly.

The whalers and sealers also introduced various non-native species such rats and mice which had a devastating impact on ground nesting bird species, and non-native plants that have outcompeted native vegetation. Thanks to the work of the South Georgia Heritage Trust, supported by the Government, a major habitat restoration project has taken place to eradicate rodents and we hope that South Georgia is now rodent free for the first time in over 250 years. Work is also taking place to manage and eradicate non-native plants and it is hoped that by 2020 nearly two-thirds of the 40+ non-native plant species on the island will be gone.

The territorial waters surrounding South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands are now a sustainable use Marine Protected Area within which operate some of the most sustainably managed fisheries in the world. Strict biosecurity protocols ensure that visitors to the island today do not accidentally introduce new species, implemented in partnership with the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators.

While Possession Day is an opportunity to look back and mark Cook’s endeavours, it is also a chance to look forward and to identify new opportunities and collaborations to share and enhance this unique place.

South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands in the News

‘Shame and anger’ at plastic ocean pollution

“Wandering albatrosses – which have the longest wingspan of any birds alive today – are thought to be especially vulnerable. Nesting on the barren islands of South Georgia, they feed their young by scouring thousands of miles of ocean for squid and fish but often bring back plastic instead.”

(For a summary of how the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands is protecting this UK Overseas Territory for wildlife and for people click here.)


Expedition to ‘health-check’ southern right whales around South Georgia

“An international team of researchers, led by British Antarctic Survey (BAS), travels to the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia this month (January) to carry out the first scientific whale survey since whaling stopped in the 1970s.”


South Georgia launches four-year toothfish licensing round

“The Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands has launched the next toothfish licensing round. The documentation offered provides information for anyone applying for a license to fish for toothfish”


South Georgia Islands: The magic of little-known place en route to Antarctica

“Eventually I picked myself up off the black sand and trudged up the beach to see what we had come here to witness: Nesting adult king penguins and last year’s chicks, spread out as far as the eye can see, in the shadow of a magnificent glacier and intermingled with egg-thieving skuas, gentoo penguins, every vista was crammed with fearless animals.”


12 facts about South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands


Tragic explorer Henry Worsley is laid to rest overlooking the grave of his idol Ernest Shackleton


Portraits of 20th century polar explorers are brought to life in glorious colour


Frozen beauty: Local doctor shares adventures of trip to Antarctica

“South Georgia was a special place. The diversity of its plants and landscapes, the hundreds of thousands of king penguins, the elephant and fur seals, and the breathtaking beauty of its fjords with calving glaciers, and its historical significance make this an essential visit en route to Antarctica.”

Latest Videos and Photos

“The Kings Of South Georgia”


On South Georgia the battle against invasive species continues as the weed management team get going on this season’s work.



Happy 2018 from all the South Georgia Team! The SGHT Habitat Restoration project team, including the rodent detector dogs, joined the celebrations.



Fur seal pups having fun exploring their surroundings while their mums are away feeding at sea. Photo Paula O’Sulivan.