Gentoo penguin tracking and the Marine Protection Area review
Penguins have evolved amazing adaptions which allow them to live in some of the world's most challenging marine environments. Some can survive in temperatures as low -60°C or drink seawater.
Extremely agile and quick in the water, gentoo penguins are the fastest of all the penguin species, reaching underwater speeds of 36 km/h (22 mph).
Krill is an important food source for gentoo penguins, which are residents in South Georgia through the winter. The krill fishery around South Georgia is closed during the summer but still continues to operate during winter.
Vital new tracking of gentoo penguins will allow us to understand if this fishery competes with these penguins for food during the winter and therefore whether the species is adequately protected by the current management of the marine protected area. Results will be fed into the 2018 marine protected area review being conducted by the South Georgia Government.
Albatrosses are some of the most iconic species in the Southern Ocean and South Georgia is home to wandering, black-browed and grey-headed albatross. Despite being well protected within the Territory, both on land and at sea in the Marine Protected Area, populations are still in decline. Evidence suggests that incidental mortality (bycatch) in fisheries outside South Georgia's waters is the greatest threat.
Studies have been conducted to identify the areas, seasons and fleets of highest overlap between global tuna fisheries and South Georgia albatrosses. With a better understanding of where these graceful wanderers face the highest risk, we can work with Regional Fisheries Management Organisations and fisheries operators to reduce losses of South Georgia's magnificent albatrosses.
Identification of marine IBA and KBAs
Despite the richness of its wildlife, there are currently no confirmed areas of marine Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) in South Georgia waters.
The RSPB and BirdLife International are founder members of the new Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) partnership, helping to identify ‘sites that contribute to the global persistence of biodiversity’ for all threatened plant and animal species in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems.
Developments in tracking techniques have revolutionized our understanding of the at-sea distributions, movements, ecology and activity patterns of marine species.
Utilising this tracking and data will allow the identification of biodiversity hotspots for formal protection under IBA or KBA designations under IBA or KBA criteria, providing further information to strengthen the marine protected area.