5 July, 2022

Today, Tuesday 5 July, the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) announced the designation of the entire landmass of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) as Specially Protected Areas, fulfilling the commitment it made in the ‘Pathway to Protection’.

This Terrestrial Protected Area covers over 3,800 km2 and complements the Marine Protected Area , which covers the whole 1.24m km2 maritime zone, thus ensuring that the whole of SGSSI lies within a protected area system. Together, these Protected Areas will be an exemplar in delivering holistic ecosystem management, sustainable use and world-class protection.

The Specially Protected Areas Order prohibits all entry to the South Sandwich Islands without a permit and lays the foundation for enhanced protection measures across South Georgia which will be the subject of further consultation.

South Georgia protected area
Aerial photo of Maiviken in South Georgia

The South Georgia Terrestrial Protected Area will conserve, protect and preserve the ecosystem and restore native biodiversity. It will ensure that activities are managed sustainably and those activities, such as research and media operations are assessed for their impact on the ecosystem and managed accordingly.  It will help deliver a sustainable tourist industry so that people will have the opportunity to experience these amazing habitats and develop collective knowledge about the biodiversity of the island. The Government aims to deliver a truly sustainable visitor experience, supporting this global rarity; an ecosystem in recovery

Within the next 12 months, GSGSSI, in partnership with stakeholders, will develop a detailed management plan and enhanced regulations for the Protected Areas to ensure that the unique terrestrial ecosystems in the Territory enjoy the high level of protection they deserve.

This announcement is an important step in GSGSSIs vision of ‘environmental recovery and resilience through world-leading evidence-based sustainable management’ as detailed in out stewardship framework Protect Sustain Inspire and its Delivery Agenda.  It will contribute to the UK Governments aims under the Convention on Biological Diversity to press for 30% of land and ocean to be protected across the globe.

South Georgia protected area
Aerial view of South Georgia

His Excellency Nigel Phillips CBE, Commissioner for South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands said:

“As my tenure as Commissioner of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands draws to a close, I am delighted to announce that the entire territory will now be designated 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.”

Amanda Milling, Minister responsible for Overseas Territories, said:

“The Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) have made tremendous steps to reverse the impacts of unbridled human exploitation to the islands.  This move to designate the entire land mass a protected area continues the journey of an ecosystem in recovery and demonstrates the shared commitment to be an exemplar of environmental protection. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will continue to work closely with GSGSSI to support the implementation of the Terrestrial Protected Area and enhance the protection of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.”

South Georgia protected area
The South Georgia Government/British Antarctic Survey ‘King Edward Point applied fisheries research station’in Cumberland East Bay, South Georgia.

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) operates two research stations in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands – King Edward Point and Bird Island.

Professor Dame Jane Francis, Director of British Antarctic Survey said:

“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.”