An attempt to protect the BRITISH territory in Antarctica

Jim Wilson Images

Environmental groups are urging the UNITED kingdom to protect one of its most remote territories, the rugged, uninhabited South Sandwich Islands, on the edge of Antarctica.

The offer, part of a coalition called the Great British Oceans, and calls for the islands to be a sanctuary to cease all fishing activities and commercial activities.

A few people have set foot on the islands.

The group says they are some of the last natural reserves of the Earth and are in need of protection.

Scientists also suggest that, because of their position in the South Atlantic – right at the northern edge of Antarctica, that may provide a valuable barometer for the effects of climate change in the region.
A hostile nature

One of the islands – Zavodovski – was captured in a dramatic sequence for the BBC Planet Earth 2 series, which has documented the hostile environment, the island of penguins in front of you on a daily basis.

Jim Wilson Images

Simon Reddy, from the Pew Charitable Trusts, which is leading the bid, has explained that the islands were already part of a protected marine area (AMP), state of conservation, which limits the amount of fishing and other human activities.

But to declare the area a sanctuary to protect the marine environment before the climate and other threats take their toll.

“Everything we have in the whole of the South Sandwich Islands is a small fishing, so why not just declare fully protected now,” Mr Reddy said.

“It can also mean that the islands could be put aside for the science.”

The government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands is currently evaluating the effectiveness of existing conservation measures, and Dr. Tom Hart, an Antarctic researcher from the University of Oxford, which manages the PenguinWatch the project, told BBC News that it might be better to wait until the revision was completed.

But the groups that support the offer, including the RSPB and Greenpeace, say that keeping the islands for research to support efforts to understand the impact of climate change in the vast Ocean of the South, a region that stretches to the Antarctic.

Jim Wilson Images

Volcanic wildlife

Despite the hostile, rugged coastlines and often violent weather, the islands seem to be a haven for wildlife.

Are home to half the world’s population of penguins, along with a variety of sea birds and other marine life that feed in the rich seas.

Scientists believe that the temperature changes there could have an impact on the marine life and the broader ecosystem of the Antarctic, in particular, changes in the abundance of krill, the foundation of the Antarctic marine food chain.

The islands are also formed by a volcanic arc that has created hot underwater vents that could present scientists with small budgets, unknown life in the warm waters surrounded by cold seas.

Alex Rogers

While the extreme environment and remoteness make the islands difficult to study and also to reach out to organizations to say “it is certain that the ecosystem is one of a kind and relevant to the world today.”

“To preserve, full protection from the impact of the extractive activity such as fishing is essential.”

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