South Georgia Newsletter, December ’18 – January ’19

This newsletter is not produced by GSGSSI; it does not necessarily reflect their views.
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South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands MPA Enhancements

The Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) has announced a range of additional measures for its Marine Protected Area (MPA) which will greatly enhance the protection and conservation of the Territory’s rich marine biodiversity. Drawing on the recommendations arising from the recent 5-yearly review of the South Georgia and & South Sandwich Islands Marine Protected Area, GSGSSI will extend the current Marine Protected Area legislation across its entire 1.24m km2 Maritime Zone. No-take zones (NTZ), which will be closed to all commercial fishing activity, will be expanded to cover 23% (284,000 km2) of the MPA; an area which greatly exceeds the size of the UK. This new NTZ network covers key biodiversity hotspots at the South Sandwich Islands and protects the globally significant and unique South Sandwich trench. In addition, a precautionary two month extension to the seasonal closure of the highly regulated fishery for Antarctic krill will limit fishing to the winter period between May and September, to reduce potential competition between the fishery and krill predators such as seals and penguins during their breeding seasons.

To further reduce potential human impacts upon the region’s ecosystem, GSGSSI will introduce a ban on the carriage and use of heavy fuel oil (HFO) by vessels operating around the South Sandwich Islands. This will mirror the prohibition already enshrined in international law for vessels operating south of 60 degrees South. The use and carriage of HFO will be phased out completely across the entire SGSSI Maritime Zone by December 2020. GSGSSI will also enshrine in legislation the prohibition on the commercial extraction of mineral resources, whilst allowing for scientific research and related activities; also modelled on international law.

This enhanced protection adds to the comprehensive array of measures currently in place, including the total ban on all fishing using bottom trawls across all 1.24 million km2, the prohibition of all bottom-fishing activities at depths shallower than 700m and greater than 2250m and an extensive network of benthic closed areas designed to protect vulnerable habitats and species.

Further details here:

South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands Marine Protected Area Enhancements

Environmental Enhancements Across South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands

Marine Protected Area

Grytviken Conservation Management Plan (CMP)

GSGSSI has published the final version of the Grytviken Conservation Management Plan (CMP). This document has been prepared by heritage consultants Purcell following recommendations from the SGSSI Heritage Framework Strategy.

A copy of the Grytviken Conservation Management Plan can be downloaded here.

This CMP is focused on the Grytviken Whaling Station, the first shore-based whaling station on South Georgia. Nowadays Grytviken is a focal point for South Georgia’s 10,000 seasonal visitors who all pass through during their visit to the island. The document provides a history of Grytviken, it explains challenges of conservation and outlines recommendations, guidance for future preservation and development of this important site. Some of the actions and recommendations outlined in the plan have already been implemented this season by the GSGSSI building team.

Biosecurity Detector Dog Programme For The South Atlantic

An extended biosecurity detector dog programme is now following the successful pilot programme where specially trained dogs were deployed on vessels bound for South Georgia tasked with detecting rats and mice. By ensuring there were no stowaway rodents on board, or among cargo, the dog team effectively made sure that no rodents could re-invade South Georgia.


Erin & Pipit (left) Megan & Samurai (right).


This next phase of the project will see the return of dog handlers Megan Vick and Erin Jackson, with veteran rodent detector dog Samurai and newcomer Pipit, a young springer spaniel who will remain in the Falklands as part of a long term biosecurity detector dog programme. Pipit has shown great promise in her early training. She is named after the South Georgia Pipit; a small songbird found nowhere else on earth, and whose numbers are recovering in the absence of rats on South Georgia.

This next phase of the project is in collaboration with the Falkland Islands Government, where the dogs’ amazing sense of smell will be put to good use to detect biosecurity risks entering the Falkland Islands, and to prevent rodents from being accidentally moved around the Falklands to rodent-free areas in cargo or as stowaways on vessels.

The extended programme aims to identify a suitable long term solution to provide a Falklands-based biosecurity detector dog programme which will have wide reaching environmental benefits for both South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.

We are delighted to be working once again with Working Dogs for Conservation (WD4C), a US based organisation experienced in delivering conservation dog programmes around the world. The project is being supported by the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT), Friends of South Georgia Island (FOSGI) and the RSPB.

New Funding Uses Seabirds As Sentinels Of South Atlantic

(by British Antarctic Survey)

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) scientist Professor Richard Phillips has been awarded funding to use newly developed radar-detecting tags to track the interactions between wandering albatrosses and fishing vessels in the South Atlantic.

The funding comes from the UK Government as part of Darwin Plus, which supports projects aimed at protecting and enhancing the environment in the UK Oversea Territories. £3.75 million will be shared amongst 17 projects around the globe supporting international biodiversity.

Researchers will attach state-of-the-art radar trackers to adult and juvenile wandering albatrosses on Bird Island, South Georgia. The project aims to determine how often and where these iconic seabirds interact with legal and/or illegal fishing vessel in the South Atlantic Ocean. Scientists will also study the bird’s behaviour as they interact with fishing vessels. They will record the distance at which the birds react to the vessel’s presence and the proportion of time spent behind vessels. This information will help determine bycatch risk for birds of different sex, age and breeding status.

Wandering albatrosses on South Georgia. Photo credit: Richard Phillips.


Identifying hotspots and periods where seabirds are more susceptible to bycatch is crucial for informing conservation policy to protect seabirds in the South Atlantic. With a better understanding of risk, efforts can be focused on improving regulations, practices and compliance with recommended bycatch mitigation, and monitoring of seabird bycatch rates by independent observers.

Professor Richard Phillips, seabird ecologist at the British Antarctic Survey says:

“We’ve known seabirds such as albatrosses and petrels are vulnerable to bycatch, particularly since the mid 1990s. What is exciting about this project is the use of new technology, radar-detecting tags and 3-D acceleration loggers. These technologies will allow us to gain a greater insight into how birds behave when foraging at sea behind fishing vessels and provide the first indication of the level of illegal fishing in the region. This collaborative project with BirdLife International will gather much-needed information to help inform policies to protect seabirds.”

Results will help stakeholders and policy makers to better target bycatch observer programmes, monitor compliance with bycatch mitigation and highlight impacts of bycatch on seabirds.

The UK is a signatory to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) part of the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). Around South Georgia, regulations introduced under the auspices of CCAMLR (Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) led to a drop in seabird bycatch in the local Patagonian toothfish fishery from 1000s of birds killed per year in the late 1990s to negligible levels since 2004. Elsewhere in the southern hemisphere, however, continuing poor practices and weak or no enforcement of regulations leads to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of seabirds every year in longline, trawl and artisanal fisheries.

The full article can be read on the BAS website here.

SGSSI Gazette

The first South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands Gazette of 2019 has been published whoich includes notices for the appointments for the Director of Fisheries, Marriage Registrar and Senior Magistrate.

The full Gazette can be downloaded in the Laws of SGSSI section.

South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands In The News

How One Guest’s Model Ship Made it to the South Georgia Museum

Avid Lindblad guest Ken Greenwood has explored the world with us on 13 expeditions — with two more booked in 2019. Here, he shares the story of how his model ship ended up in a museum.


The heroic story of Harry McNish and Shackleton’s Imperial Transantarctic Expedition

In 1914 Harry McNish responded to an advert for a carpenter on the Endurance, a ship which was to take a crew from England to Buenos Aires, on to South Georgia and then to the Weddell Sea in Antarctica. Like the crew of the Endurance, he expected to remain on the ship when the explorers and professionals landed in Antarctica.


Antarctic Weddell expedition targets Shackleton’s lost ship

A scientific expedition in the Antarctic has set out on a quest to find Sir Ernest Shackleton’s lost ship. The team has spent the past two weeks investigating the Larsen C Ice Shelf and the continent’s biggest iceberg, known as A68. And this puts it just a few hundred km from the last recorded position of the famous British explorer’s vessel, the Endurance.


New funding uses seabirds as sentinels of South Atlantic

Researchers will attach state-of-the-art radar trackers to adult and juvenile wandering albatrosses on Bird Island, South Georgia. The project aims to determine how often and where these iconic seabirds interact with legal and/or illegal fishing vessel in the South Atlantic Ocean.


For Penguin Awareness Day, Enjoy This Rare Photo Of 5 Different Penguin Species

The South Sandwich Islands and nearby South Georgia Island, which reside just east of the waters between Argentina and Antarctica (Drake’s Passage), are home to 25% of the planet’s penguin population as well as many seabirds, whales, and seals. First spotted in 1675 by a merchant ship blown off course, the islands eventually became a British territory after Captain James Cook landed there in the late 18th century.


The Saga of the Reindeer of South Georgia Island

The South Georgia herds were confined to two distinct areas on the island’s northern coast. There, over decades, they feasted on plants such as tussac, a native grass that grows tall and dense, and is important for white-chinned petrels that burrow underground. Eventually, as the tussac was overgrazed and the soil trampled, some of the petrels couldn’t nest anymore. Authorities on the British-controlled island pondered what to do.


Earth from Space: South Georgia Island

The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission takes us over the island of South Georgia. Linked with the South Sandwich Islands to form a British Overseas Territory, this southern Atlantic island is a haven for a vast array of wildlife.


Painting the Whaling Stations of South Georgia

View 25 new original paintings and drawings in Theo’s first major exhibition since his 2 month Residency with the South Georgia Heritage Trust. South Georgia is a Sub-Antarctic island that was home to the whaling industries of the 20th Century. Now abandoned, the industrial stations lie in ruin, off limits to anyone without a regulated permit from the Government.


Knit and Natter penguins reach Antarctica

They were made by the Scottish Knit and Natter group and have now made the long journey right down to the end of the world and have finally reached “home” in Antarctica.


Albatross Task Force

The world’s 1st international team dedicated to saving the albatross by working on vessels and in ports with the fishing industry. Tweets by ATF Project Officer.

Latest Videos And Photos

St.Andrews Bay – searching for invasive and non-native plant species.


GSGSSI, in partnership with the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage, are delighted to deliver an interactive kiosk to the Falkland Islands Historic Dockyard Museum enabling visitors to virtually explore the whaling stations in South Georgia.