NEW YORK (October 9, 2008) – The Wildlife Conservation Society announced today that the government of Argentina has recently banned commercial fishing along an 1,800 square kilometer (694 square mile) submerged island rich in species found no where else on earth and an important feeding ground for sea lions, penguins, albatross and other marine life. The area, known as Burdwood Bank, lies 220 km (136 miles) off the Southern Argentine Coast. Burdwood is particularly rich in hard and soft coral species – some of which are found no where else on earth. It is also the breeding ground for the ecologically important southern blue whiting and Fuegian sardine. The Wildlife Conservation Society has identified the bank as a critical wildlife area as part of its Sea and Sky initiative, which seeks to promote management of the vast Patagonian Large Marine Ecosystem – one of the most productive regions in the southern hemisphere. The Argentine Fisheries Secretary implemented a Federal Fisheries Council mandate on September 26th, 2008, which permanently banned all fishing activities in the area including bottom trawling - an industrial fishing method that employs large, heavy nets dragged across the seabed. While the method captures the desired target fish, it also incidentally kills corals, sponges, and other animals. The method is known to be destructive of underwater ecosystems that serve as both spawning grounds and ecological storehouses. “Armed with sound science, Consejo Federal Pesquero has taken a big step in ensuring sustainability in Argentina’s fishing industry by protecting Burdwood Bank, said Dr. Claudio Campagna, of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Sea and Sky Program. “With the protection of this small, but critical area, the ocean is better able to replenish what we take from it, and equally important, Argentina’s unique biodiversity is preserved.” The Patagonian Large Marine Ecosystem which contains and surrounds the Patagonian Shelf, harbors some of the southern hemisphere’s richest marine resources, sustained by the nutrient-rich Falklands-Malvinas and Brazil currents. The living resources of the area, particularly fish and squid, are of major economic importance. They also sustain breeding and feeding aggregations of albatross, penguins, whales, and seals. The community of top predators and migratory species in this vast area come from as far away as Antarctica, South Georgia Island, and even New Zealand. The Wildlife Conservation Society’s involvement in the region dates back to the 1970s and has included research, training, education, and policy development. The Sea and Sky initiative seeks to promote precautionary management at the ecosystem level for this vast “oceanscape” – an epicenter of biological productivity. WCS’s Sea and Sky initiative is funded by the Mitsubishi Corporation Foundation for the Americas and the Liz Claiborne/Art Ortenberg Foundation.
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