News received via BirdLife South Africa: The Department of Environmental Affairs announced that South Africa’s subAntarctic territory, the Prince Edward Islands, has had an enormous Marine Protected Area declared.
The islands are internationally renowned for their important seabird colonies, including holding nearly half of the global population of Wandering Albatrosses (Diomedea exulans), 13% of the world’s King Penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus), and one of the highest numbers of breeding seabird species (26) of any island in the world. BirdLife International lists the islands as an Important Bird Area in recognition of its irreplaceable biodiversity value. BirdLife is also working at identifying marine Important Bird Areas across the world’s oceans, and the new MPA overlaps with several proposed marine IBAs. The establishment of the multi-zoned MPA will afford protection for many of the breeding seabirds (and other marine life). For example, the establishment of a 12 nautical mile no-take zone around both islands will help to ensure that seabird species such as Gentoo Penguins (Pygoscelis papua) and Crozet Shag (Phalacrocorax melanogenis), which feed exclusively within this area and which have suffered large decreases in recent times, will not face additional pressures from new activities in their feeding ranges.
Dr Ross Wanless, Seabird Division Manager at BirdLife South Africa, commented “This declaration represents the culmination of a lot of work by many dedicated scientists and conservationists over many years. Marine Protected Areas have great potential to protect seabirds and other marine biodiversity, and the scale and nature of the Prince Edward Islands MPA is impressive. I do not doubt that it will benefit all marine life in the area, especially if the restrictions on fishing, which can cause significant seabird mortality, can be enforced.”