Yesterday, July 5, 2022, the government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands declared the entire land mass of the unique natural paradises as a protected area — almost exactly one year after the announcement. Thus, in addition to the entire maritime zone of the islands, terrestrial ecosystems are now protected, fulfilling the government’s commitment made in the Pathway to Protection program.
The new terrestrial protected area covers a total of 3,800 square kilometers and complements the marine protected area of 1.24 million square kilometers that has been in place since 2012, meaning that the entire water and land area of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands is now under one protected area system. This holistic ecosystem management with sustainable use and protection is probably unique in the world.
«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», said His Excellency Nigel Phillips CBE, outgoing Commissioner for South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands.
While the Special Protected Areas Order prohibits entry into the South Sandwich Islands without a permit, tourist visits will remain permitted on South Georgia. However, there will be enhanced protections throughout South Georgia.
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.
Amanda Lynnes, Director of Environment at IAATO
According to the announcement by the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, the South Georgia Terrestrial Protected Area is for the conservation, protection and preservation of the ecosystem and the restoration of native biodiversity. All activities such as research or media projects must be managed sustainably and their impacts on the ecosystem should be assessed and managed accordingly.
«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», said Professor Dame Jane Francis, Director of British Antarctic Survey.
In addition, the protected area order will help develop a sustainable tourism industry so that people have the opportunity to explore these fascinating habitats and increase their knowledge of the island’s biodiversity, according to the release. The government’s goal, it said, is to create a truly sustainable visitor experience and preserve this global rarity — an ecosystem that is recovering.
A detailed management plan and improved protected area regulations will be developed over the next 12 months to ensure terrestrial ecosystems receive the high level of protection they deserve.
With the designation of the new protected area, the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands takes a major and important step forward in its vision of «environmental recovery and resilience through world-leading evidence-based sustainable management» as described in its “Protect, Sustain, Inspire” framework. The protected area also contributes to the U.K. government’s goals under the Convention on Biological Diversity to protect 30 percent of the land area and oceans by 2030 (“30 by 30”).
Julia Hager, PolarJournal
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