South Georgia has been discovered to contain one of the highest levels of biodiversity among all the ecosystems on Earth. The Marine Protection Area has been carefully designed to ensure the protection and conservation of the regions rich and diverse marine life, while allowing sustainable fisheries.
South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) is a UK Overseas Territory, situated 800 miles southeast of the Falkland Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. It is a remote and inhospitable collection of islands, consisting of South Georgia and a chain of smaller islands known as the South Sandwich Islands.
Most of the islands, rising steeply from the sea, are rugged and mountainous. At higher elevations, the islands are permanently covered with ice and snow. There is no permanent population on the islands
The seas around SGSSI have a high level of biodiversity. In a recent study (2009–2011), South Georgia has been discovered to contain one of the highest levels of biodiversity among all the ecosystems on Earth.
The marine ecosystem is thought to be vulnerable because its low temperatures mean that it can repair itself only very slowly. In 2012, the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) created one of the world’s largest, sustainably managed Marine Protected Area (MPA) that encompasses the entire SGSSI Maritime Zone north of 60°S.
The Marine Protection Area (MPA) has been carefully designed to ensure the protection and conservation of the regions rich and diverse marine life, while allowing sustainable and carefully regulated fisheries.
The MPA covers a total area of 1,070,000 sq km (413,129 sq mi), which includes the prohibition of all bottom trawling and a ban on bottom fishing at depths less than 700 m (2,300 ft) and greater than 2,250 m (7,380 ft). No-take zones, extending 12 nautical miles from the coast, were created around South Georgia, Clerke Rocks, Shag and Black Rocks and the South Sandwich Islands, totaling 20,431 sq km (7,888 sq mi).
Other protection measures within the MPA include a network of benthic no-take-zones (NTZ) in previously popular toothfish fishing areas, and closure of the krill fishery in the summer (November 1st until March 31st), – when krill-eating birds and marine mammals are breeding. All these measures provide refuges for fish, protect the benthos and spawning fish and avoid competition between fisheries and land-based foragers.