Vast reserve to protect remote Prince Edward Islands

Posted on 07 May 2009  | 
South Africa’s declaration to establish one of the world’s largest Marine Protected Area’s (MPA) around its Prince Edward Islands, is a marine conservation achievement of global importance which will help protecting a suite of spectacular wildlife, including albatrosses, penguins and killer whales.

The announcement of Environment Minister Marthinus Christoffel Johannes van Schalkwyk, came after many years of close cooperation between the government and WWF.

The Islands, which consist of Prince Edward and Marion Islands, are located almost 2000 km south of South Africa in the Southern Ocean, and form an important global biodiversity hotspot, which was subject to rampant poaching during the late 1990’s.

“This is a historic day in marine conservation in South Africa. All of South Africa’s current MPAs are located very close inshore. The commitment of the first large offshore MPA moves South Africa into a new era of marine conservation,” Dr Deon Nel, head of the WWF Sanlam Living Waters Partnership, said.

The Prince Edward Islands is among the world’s most important and diverse regions. But the islands, home to albatrosses, penguins and killer whales, have been threatened by illegal and irresponsible fishing practices in the past. The illegal fishing vessels around the PEIs were targeting Patagonian Toothfish. And the Albatross species were killed as bycatch in these operations.

Given the scarcity of land masses in the Southern Ocean, sub-Antarctic islands contain vast populations of seals and seabirds, which use these islands to breed and moult and are therefore critical to the conservation of such species

The islands support some 13% of King Penguins worldwide, and five Species of Albatross breed there together with 14 species of petrels and five other species.

“South Africa has made a globally significant commitment to our oceans through its intention to declare this large MPA.,” Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International said.

“In particular, South Africa plays a key role with several other countries including Australia, France and New Zealand, in protecting the amazing biodiversity and commercially important fisheries of the sub-Antarctic and, through this, helps to establish a fully representative, viable and effective MPA network for the Southern Ocean.”

A Marine Protected Area (MPA) around Prince Edward Islands will help protecting a suite of spectacular wildlife, including albatrosses, penguins and killer whales.
© Samantha Petersen/WWF South Africa Enlarge

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