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Increased protected ocean area a boost for whale populations

Humpback whale (megaptera novaeangliae) Humpback whale. Tonga.

Protections in the South Atlantic Ocean for one of the largest and most important marine wildlife areas on the planet have been expanded.

A decision to further protect the nutrient-rich waters surrounding South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) was taken by the UK and local governments after a campaign WDC supported as part of the Great Blue Ocean coalition.

Our work included feeding into expert workshops with the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands government, and now means the protected area (a crucial route for migrating whales) will increase by a further 166,000 km2 - an ocean area surrounding these remote islands that is bigger than England and Wales combined.

These rich waters are slowly recovering from centuries of industrial-scale exploitation. Humpback whale populations that feed in the region are now back to over 90% of their number before industrial whaling.

There are no permanent human residents on the islands, which sit equidistant between the southern tip of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula, but the biodiversity includes a wide array of whales, millions of seals and tens of millions of breeding birds. But the waters are also facing modern threats from rising temperatures and concentrated fishing efforts.

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