We're working to designate a South Atlantic Marine Wildlife Sanctuary
2 minute read
As members of the Great Blue Ocean coalition, we're campaigning for UK Government to designate a South Atlantic Marine Wildlife Sanctuary in the South Atlantic Ocean.
Through the Great Blue Ocean coalition, we work alongside Blue Marine Foundation, Greenpeace UK, The Pew Trusts, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).
The group advocates for the increase, implementation and improvement of marine conservation in the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) through schemes such as the Blue Belt Programme.
The Blue Belt Programme was created in 2016 and is the UK’s international marine conservation programme, connecting the UK to Overseas Territories and supporting a healthy and productive marine environment.
The programme is funded by the Foreign Office and at just £8 million per year (equating to only £1.86 per km2 of protected ocean), is incredibly good value for money.
We’re campaigning for UK Government to designate a South Atlantic Marine Wildlife Sanctuary in the South Atlantic Ocean. The Sanctuary would encompass the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI), a remote archipelago which is home to a unique pocket of marine biodiversity, including whales, penguins and seals.
Credit: Francois Baelen/ OceanImageBank
Credit: Paul Nicklen/ SeaLegacy
Credit: Paul Nicklen/ SeaLegacy
Credit: Cristina Mittermeier/ SeaLegacy
Although the region is remote and not easily accessible to most, it is has suffered from extensive damaging fishing practices. This has resulted in a serious decline in wildlife.
However, since the implementation of no-take zones and a whaling ban in 1985, humpback whale populations have increased from 450 individuals to an estimated 27,000 – an increase of almost 6000%.
Credit: Great Blue Ocean
Designating protected areas and taking a holistic, precautionary approach is vital to improving marine wildlife. That’s why we’re calling on UK Government to:
- Significantly expand the no-take zone around the South Sandwich Islands – potentially adding up to 400,000 square kilometres in new full protections.
- Close offshore areas of South Georgia to krill fishing, as krill are proven to be critical to returning and recovering whale populations.
- Set a more precautionary catch limit for krill around South Georgia.
Since 2016, marine conservation in the UKOTs has increased under every UK Prime Minister. Now, Rishi Sunak has the opportunity to add his name to the list of ocean advocates by designating the South Atlantic Marine Wildlife Sanctuary.
It has never been timelier as the UK government is currently undertaking a review into marine protected areas (MPAs) in SGSSI – a process which only occurs every five years.
This follows the recent failure of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to establish new marine protected areas around Antarctica – despite having first committed to ‘a representative network of MPAs’ in 2009.
The five-year review gives the UK a huge opportunity to take the lead on the world stage and implement meaningful protections to a region that is crucial to an abundance of marine species.
The Great Blue Ocean coalition has met with UK and UKOT Government ministers and representatives, as well as holding workshops with leading scientists and policy workers to discuss conservation issues and the ways in which we can further protections.
We will continue to push and provide evidence for the vital designation of the South Atlantic Marine Wildlife Sanctuary for the continued survival of marine wildlife in the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands.
You can find out more about the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and why the designation of a South Atlantic Marine Wildlife Sanctuary is so crucial in this report.