The mountainous island of South Georgia, situated in the cold but productive waters of the Southern Ocean, is a UK Overseas Territory and one of the world's most important seabird islands. It is estimated that over 100 million seabirds are based there, while there may have been an order of magnitude more before the introduction of rats. South Georgia has 29 species of breeding bird, and is the world's most important breeding site for six species (Macaroni Penguin Eudyptes chrysolophus, Grey-headed Albatross Thalassarche chrysostoma, Northern Giant Petrel Macronectes holli, Antarctic Prion Pachyptila desolato, White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis and Common Diving Petrel Pelecanoides urinatrix). Several of the key species are globally threatened or near-threatened, which emphasises the need for action to improve the conservation status of the island's birds. South Georgia is currently classified by BirdLife International as a single Important Bird Area (IBA) but it may be better considered as comprising several distinct IBAs. Current threats to the South Georgia avifauna include rats (a major campaign to eliminate rats began in 2010/11), regional climate change, and incidental mortality in longline and trawl fisheries. Local fisheries are now well regulated but South Georgia albatrosses and petrels are still killed in large numbers in more distant fisheries.
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|Published - 1 Mar 2012