South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
Population: No indigenous population
Economy: The main sources of revenue are from
the sale of fishing licences, passenger landings and harbour administration
charges, sale of stamps and commemorative coins. Main items of
expenditure are fisheries administration costs and research, fisheries
protection, conservation projects, production of stamps and support
for the South Georgia Museum.
527. South Georgia is an isolated, mountainous
sub-Antarctic island about 1,390 kilometres south east of the
Falkland Islands and about 2,150 kilometres east of Tierra del
Fuego. Surrounded by cold waters originating from the Antarctic,
South Georgia has a harsher climate than expected from its latitude.
More than 50% of the island is covered by permanent ice with many
large glaciers reaching the sea at the head of fjords. The main
mountain range, the Allardyce Range, has its highest point at
Mount Paget (2960 metres). The South Sandwich Islands consist
of a chain of 11 volcanic islands some 350 kilometres long. Some
of these islands are still active. The climate is wholly Antarctic.
In the late winter the Islands may be surrounded by pack ice.
528. The first landing on South Georgia was that
of Captain James Cook in 1775. Thereafter, South Georgia was much
visited by sealers of many nationalities who reaped a rich harvest
from the immense number of fur seals and elephant seals that frequented
the shores. Britain annexed South Georgia and the South Sandwich
Islands (SGSSI) by Letters Patent in 1908. Since then, the Islands
have been under continuous British occupation, apart from a short
period of illegal Argentine occupation in 1982. Throughout much
of the last century South Georgia was the centre of land-based
whaling in the Southern Hemisphere and whaling stations operated
under licence from the British administration.
529. The Commissioner for South Georgia and the
South Sandwich Islands is at the same time Governor of the Falkland
Islands. Under the SGSSI constitution, he consults the Falkland
Islands Executive Council on matters which he considers might
affect the Falkland Islands. The Commissioner is assisted by the
First Secretary at Government House in Stanley who is concurrently
Assistant Commissioner. The government of South Georgia and the
South Sandwich Islands is also administered from Government House
by a Chief Executive Officer who is also Director of Fisheries.
There is also an Executive Officer and a Habitat Restoration Officer,
as well as a Government Officer who is based in South Georgia.
The Attorney General and Financial Secretary from the Falkland
Islands fulfil parallel roles in SGSSI.
530. The Commissioner depends on the advice of
the Commander, British Forces (South Atlantic Islands) on matters
concerning defence or internal security of the Islands. Following
the end of the Argentine occupation of 1982, a small garrison
was maintained at King Edward Point on South Georgia but this
was withdrawn in March 2001. At the same time, a new scientific
research facility was opened. The British Antarctic Survey's (BAS)
scientific and support team which occupies and runs the research
station augments the existing civilian presence on the Island.
The BAS undertakes a programme of scientific research under contract
to the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands,
with the aim of supporting the Government in its environmental
management and sustainable development of the Territory.
531. Argentina asserts a claim to sovereignty
over SGSSI, but the FCO states that "Britain has no doubt
about" its sovereignty of SGSSI and "does not regard
it as negotiable".
- We conclude that the Government
was right to submit a claim to the UN Commission for the Limits
of the Continental Shelf for the seabed around Ascension Island.
We recommend that the Government should submit a similar claim
for the continental shelf around the Falkland Islands and South
Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. We also recommend that
the Government should in its response to this Report state its
current policy on seabed claims in relation to the continental
shelf around the British Antarctic Territory. (para 427)
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