The Falkland Islands, with a total land area of 12,173 km² and a coastline estimated at 1,288 km, are located in the South Atlantic Ocean more than 460 km east of the coast of mainland South America. The archipelago comprises East Falkland and West Falkland heavily indented by sounds and fjords as well as 776 lesser islands. East Falkland, which contains the capital Port Stanley and the British military base at Mount Pleasant, is the more populous of the two main islands. The 3,140 residents are primarily of British descent but recent immigration from St Helena and Chile has reversed a population decline. The islands are a self-governing British Overseas Territory with the UK responsible for their defence and foreign affairs.
Controversy exists over the Falklands' original discovery and subsequent colonisation by Europeans. At various times there have been French, British, Spanish, and Argentine settlements. Britain re-established its rule in 1833, yet the islands continue to be claimed by Argentina. In 1982, following Argentina's invasion of the islands, the two-month-long undeclared Falklands War between both countries resulted in the withdrawal of all Argentine forces. Despite its defeat, Argentina still pursues its claim and the UK government policy steadfastly supports the islanders' self-determination to remain British citizens. Since the conflict, the Falklands economy has undergone an astonishing transformation.
Before 1982, the annual GDP was just £3.9m. The economy was based on the production of wool – there were 250 sheep for every resident – but plummeting prices caused mass emigration. Farms were owned by absentee landlords. There was no international airport, few proper roads and little tourism. After the war, the UK government backed a 200-mile exclusive fishing zone around the Falklands that enabled islanders to start selling lucrative squid licences and fishing rights to Japan, Spain, Russia and Korea. Today, the islands have an annual GDP of £90m. There is no national debt and the Falklands government has £103m in savings which generate a further £5.1m in interest each year. Booming fishing and tourism industries earn £42m and £7.6m a year respectively and high wool and meat prices mean agriculture brings in a further £6.4m a year. The prospect of oil has led to a recent influx of workers to man the Ocean Guardian rig 120 miles off the north shore and injected another £10m into the local economy.
Islanders enjoy free healthcare and education up to university level. Patients needing complex operations are flown to Chile or the UK for treatment with all costs being met by the government. A new secondary school teaches children up to GCSE level. Pupils are then offered free flights, have all tuition fees paid and get £8,000 a year to study at colleges and universities in the UK. There is no council tax or VAT, no tax on petrol or diesel, and income tax is substantially lower than in Britain, with the first £12,000 of earnings tax-free and a top rate of only 26%. Stanley Services, a ubiquitous company that offers everything from car hire to wine imports to the town’s only petrol station, is part government owned.
Renewable Energy & Eco Housing
Whilst hydroelectricity trials have been undertaken, the islands’ rainfall is too low to provide an effective source of renewable energy and solar power is used only for electric fencing on some farms. Nevertheless, since 1996 the Falkland Islands Government has been investing in a forward-thinking and environmentally friendly policy to increase its use of renewable energy supplies and working with the Falkland Islands Development Corporation (FIDC) and consumers to develop the rural energy grant scheme. Farms in the islands used to rely solely on diesel generators for their power but this was expensive and only provided electricity for a few hours a day. Farmers realised the potential for harnessing wind power and today, with funding assistance through FIDC, 85% of farms have 24-hour power from renewable sources.
The Proven WT2500 wind turbine developed in Scotland was originally chosen for use on farms because of its rugged construction and ability to survive consistent high-speed winds, the average annual wind in the Falklands being in excess of 8.5 m/s. Small commercial wind turbines operating at relatively high rotation rates usually have a short lifetime and those that do not fail outright, suffer rapid leading edge blade erosion, therefore requiring regular blade repair or replacement. The relatively low operating speed of the Proven was considered as a factor that would improve its chances of long-term success. This has been substantiated as some Proven wind turbines have now been in operation for 10 years. Proven Energy went into administration in 2011 but some of its assets were acquired by Kingspan Wind whose own KW3 turbine was a key component of the upgraded Cable & Wireless telephone and broadband network serving the rural community on the Falkland Islands. A 7.5 kW Bergey turbine was also installed at a sheep farm on Pebble Island in 1988 but had a few problems.
In 2006, the Government unveiled proposals for Sand Bay Wind Farm, located near the capital, Stanley, and the first phase of this project proved highly successful. The installation of three Enercon 330 kW wind turbines in 2007 resulted in the displacement of 26% of the Stanley power station’s annual fuel consumption and reduced the cost of electricity by six pence per unit. Another three turbines of the same type were installed in 2010, upping the average output to 40% of the island’s needs and, on certain days, the turbines have supplied over half the power required. The next phase of development at the wind farm will be the perennial problem of energy storage. Battery storage has been investigated and found to be too expensive. However, using electric cars, albeit ones that can cope with the primarily off-road driving, to store excess energy effectively creating an independent smart grid now looks promising. Combining the fixed wind power output with distributed storage in electric cars is a model that could be exported to other islands similarly dependent on imported diesel.
Since the Falkland Islands community school was completed in 1992, the water in its swimming pool has been heated by warm water recovered from the cooling system of the generators in the nearby Stanley power station. In a further attempt to reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels, these generators were retrofitted with large heat-recovery boilers, which it is calculated will provide sufficient heat to warm both the school and the nearby hospital. Space heaters for other large public buildings and industrial refrigeration plants would also be very suitable controllable loads to take up the extra electricity production from the wind farm. Beyond that, using an electrolyser to convert the excess power to hydrogen and then use it in a fuel cell system to provide power when required is another option to explore for displacing diesel based generation.
Waste Minimisation & Recycling
Problems related to the small size of the Falklands population and the high cost of transporting waste to recycling plants in other countries have impeded efforts to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. In terms of Stanley, around 1,000 tonnes is generated from household and commercial wastes and collected via the ‘wheelie bin’ system, of which 39% is biodegradable food and garden waste, a further 12% is paper and card and 27% is glass. All this municipal waste is taken to a single coastal site, Eliza Cove, where some degree of burning followed by landfill takes place. The provision of a reception facility at this site is under consideration where some improved separation of wastes could occur, and where waste could be wetted and compacted before landfill.
In 2007 some recycling initiatives started when four Krysteline glass imploders were strategically positioned around Stanley’s public houses, restaurants and hotels to process some 230 tonnes of glass bottles and render them sharp free and ideal for re-use as an aggregate replacement. In another scheme, 30 volunteer homes undertook to trial two systems that take organic household waste and turn it into high quality garden compost. For a short period aluminium cans were collected and baled before being shipped out together with vehicle batteries. More recently there has been renewed interest from the private sector to set up a recycling business which the government is keen to encourage not least of all it may offer the lowest cost method but also the opportunity to privatise the waste management process.
Water Management & Security
Farm settlements take water from nearby springs and creeks. Since there are few actual residents then there is a low demand for water. However, at some settlements where there are tourist lodges, such as Sea Lion Island, the amount of water taken from the springs/fen habitat may represent a high proportion of the available water during dry periods. Both Stanley and Mount Pleasant complex take water from nearby streams and for both sources the water is filtered and chlorinated. At Mount Pleasant approximately 400,000 tonnes of water is extracted annually from L’Antioja Stream, which feeds into Swan Inlet. In Stanley, there has been an upward trend in annual water consumption from 134,000 tonnes in 1980 to 219,000 in 2002, since when usage has remained relatively stable despite the population increase.
It has been assessed that Moody Brook can support Stanley’s current and projected demands for perhaps ten years without the need for restricting usage except during periods of drought. The lowest recorded level over a five month period (since records began in 1874) in 2000/01 did not result in even a hosepipe ban having to be implemented. However, the now sustained levels of oil development and influx of workers could probably trigger a new demand. Stanley residents are vulnerable in having only one supply source because in the event of it being polluted, there would be an almost instant loss of supply of potable water. There is good treated water buffer storage and the government has emergency plans in place to allow other sources to be used short term, which would be sufficient to sustain supply unless the pollution was extended or permanent. Nevertheless, the government does have a development plan to extract water from the Murrell River below Mt Kent but an environmental impact assessment would need to be carried out prior to a final works plan being adopted.
Extensive Agriculture & Organic Food Production
Before 1982, the biggest landowner, the Falkland Islands Company, ran seven farms accounting for 43 per cent of the total acreage. After the war, this land was divided and sold to islanders. Most is now owned by smaller family farms who live and work on the ‘camp’, a term given to the area outside the capital. The average farm supports around 5,000 - 7,000 sheep on 13,000 hectares of native coastal tussac and grassland. These pristine pastures and very low stocking rates result in mutton and succulent lamb that are now processed and sold by the Falkland Islands Meat Company. A high quality fleece wool is also produced and exported to customers around the world.
The UK Falkland Islands Trust has undertaken a wide range of projects related to agriculture and the potential for organic husbandry. It has supported and conducted research on many aspects of the biology, ecology and agronomy of tussac grass as well as initiating a programme of research into tree growing for agricultural shelterbelts. The Trust’s interest in the value of organic production focussed on the use of seaweed as a naturally occurring source of stock feed and fertiliser. This research highlighted the potential of kelp and gave some support and expert opinion on the development of a seaweed industry in the islands. The Trust has a considerable list of publications on all these subjects available to download from their website and has also prepared a comprehensive database of all previously and currently published scientific information in a readily available form for both scientists and students to use.
Stanley Growers was created in 1987 by the FIDC and purchased by Tim Miller and his wife in 1996. They employ eight staff and another six in the sister business Stanley Nurseries. The market garden consists of just over three quarters of an acre of hydroponically grown salads, half an acre of soil-based poly tunnels and approximately 20 acres of cultivated fields. The company now provides around 15 tons of mostly salad produce to fishing vessels and visiting cruise ships, plus approximately 50 tons of imported fruit from Chile and the UK. All summer surplus peak production from crops like tomatoes is well above what can be sold locally which is why the cruise ship industry is vital to the company.
In 2008 ten out of the 88 farms on the Falklands registered to convert their production units to internationally recognised organic status by 2011. By forgoing the use of synthetic fertilisers, worm drench and other insecticides farmers hoped 15% premiums would be paid for organic wool and meat in the future. In a further bid to reduce the amount of food imports into the islands, the Falklands Executive Council agreed a quarter of million pounds funding in 2011 to be used to produce more fruit, vegetables, salad crops and hen eggs. Approximately 319mt of fresh vegetables and fruit was imported into the Falklands by air and sea in 2009/10, according to a paper produced by the FIDC, but it is estimated that 64% of those imports could be grown in the islands, either in a field (152mt) or in a poly tunnel (51mt). Additionally, in the region of 12,000 eggs are imported via the LAN flight every fortnight. This move to grow more locally was prompted by the increased protestations and actions from Argentina against British sovereignty, as well as their attempts to form an economic blockade by disrupting shipping since the restart of oil exploration in Falklands’ waters.
As of 2006, the Falkland Islands had 67 motor vehicles per 100 people, with 4x4 vehicles accounting for 66% of the total. In 1982, the archipelago had no roads outside Stanley, only tracks. By 2007, the Falklands had a road network of 786 km, with a further 50 km planned for construction by the end of 2013. This will complete the links to all occupied mainland settlements. The Falklands have two airports with paved runways. The main international airport RAF Mount Pleasant, 43 km west of Stanley opened in 1986 and the smaller Port Stanley airport opened in 1979 following the 1971 Anglo-Argentine agreement regarding an air link between the countries. Mount Pleasant is used for military purposes and for heavy aircraft that require long runways, whereas Stanley is used for internal flights and smaller aircraft. The flight map and regulations booklet for the Falkland Islands identifies avoidance areas under three sensitive wildlife site categories.
The Royal Air Force operates flights from RAF Mount Pleasant to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, England, with a refuelling stop at RAF Ascension Island. RAF flights are on TriStars although charter aircraft are often used if the TriStars are required for operational flights. Local military air support – moving of personnel, equipment and supplies around the islands is carried out under contract by British International (BRINTEL) who operate two Sikorsky S61N helicopters. The principal civilian air operator at Mount Pleasant is LAN Airlines who operate weekly flights to Santiago, Chile via Punta Arenas with an additional stop once a month at Rio Gallegos, Argentina.
Sustainable Tourism & Niche Marketing
Whether it be wildlife watching, military history, fishing, wreck diving, walking or just general interest the Falkland Islands are an eco-friendly destination. The Tourist Board other tour operators and travel agencies provide detailed information on accommodation, flights, excursions and can put together tailor-made itineraries to suit a client’s length of visit, interests and budget. A stay at one of the wildlife lodges on Sealion Island, and Pebble Island is a ‘must do’ and remoter islands like Saunders, Bleaker and Carcass can all be visited as well. Stanley itself has the Museum & National Trust, Christ Church Cathedral, Philatelic Bureau and numerous gift shops to explore amongst the characteristic older houses with their brightly coloured corrugated iron roofs. Overall, total tourist arrivals to the Falkland Islands in 2012 are expected to increase by 12% to 57,000 spending around £7 million. This figure includes cruise passengers, overnight visitors and domestic tourists. Of this figure, 35,000 are expected to arrive via cruise ships and expedition vessels.
Biodiversity & Protected Areas
The Falklands have a vision for the environment as set out in the Islands Plan 2008/11 and their Environmental Planning Department was tasked with producing a State of the Environment Report 2008 that documents all available knowledge, including species distribution, population trends, threats and current management. It can be read in conjunction with the draft Biodiversity Strategy. Dedicated action plans are required to protect a number of threatened species and habitats, which have been identified through criteria associated with listings under international conventions, conservation status and changes in population, distribution and risk of specific threats. These include 22 threatened plants, 3 penguin species, 3 albatross and petrel species, Ruddy headed goose, Flightless steamer duck, Striated caracara, Cobb’s wren, seals and sea lions, 2 dolphin species and pelagic cetaceans.
Falklands Conservation has been working on some of these action plans by undertaking research, survey or monitoring to identify the specific measures needed to arrest and reverse the causes of species decline. There are other groups like the Antarctic Research Trust who own four small islands to the south of the Falklands, Elephant Seal Research Group, New Island Conservation Trust, Shallow Marine Surveys Group, South Georgia Surveys and SubAntarctic Foundation for Ecosystems Research who all undertake a wide variety of work ranging from eradication of non-native invasive species such as rats to restoring native habitats.
There are 17 National Nature Reserves (NNRs) in the Falklands of which 8 are owned by the government, 8 are privately owned and one owned by Falklands Conservation. The management of NNRs primarily by legislation is seen to be ineffective or inappropriate by the local community. Instead, joint adoption and implementation of agreed management plans by landowners and government is advocated as the most suitable method. 22 sites qualify under criteria set down by BirdLife International as areas of global importance for birds in the Falkland Islands. These sites cover a total area of 717 km² and about 5.9% of the total land area of the Falkland Islands. Only five are situated on the two main islands with the other 17, consisting of islands and island groups (a total of 186 islands and dependent islets), spread all around the Falklands. This reflects the archipelago’s importance for seabirds. It also recognises that birds such as the striated caracara, tussacbird and Cobb’s wren are now generally restricted to rat-free islands where human impact has been lessened by their inaccessibility.
The much wider marine environment is of critical importance to the majority of Falkland species and development of an offshore oil industry and a large commercial fishery across the Patagonian Shelf pose potentially grave threats. Five small oil companies hold production licences to search for and extract petroleum from the waters surrounding the islands – Desire Petroleum, Rockhopper Exploration, Falklands Oil & Gas Ltd, Argos Resources and Borders Southern Petroleum - and all their Environmental Impact Statements/Assessments and associated documents are available to view online.
In February 2012 one of the world’s largest Marine Protected Areas (MPA) covering more than 1 million km² was created around South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands. Located southeast of the Falklands these waters are amongst the most productive in the Southern Ocean. The MPA includes 'no-take zones' for the first 12 nautical miles around each island, including Shag Rocks. These no-take zones (over 20,000 km² in total) will protect the foraging grounds of many of the Territory's land-based marine predators such as penguins, seals and seabirds and protect the spawning areas of many demersal fish species. All commercial bottom trawling is banned from the area, which will protect the benthos on the seafloor. Long-lining will be allowed, but only at depths of more than 700m, and will only affect a small area of the MPA and is only allowed under very strict regulation. There are also already three Restricted Impact Areas, occupying 3563 km², in which long-lining is not normally allowed. They were established to protect vulnerable benthic fauna, protect juvenile toothfish and provide a refuge for large toothfish. The government will continue to license fisheries for toothfish, ice-fish and krill in the MPA (outside of the no-take zones) and use the revenue to patrol the region to prevent illegal fishing and undertake research and monitoring. These fisheries are extremely carefully managed, with both the icefish and toothfish fisheries certified as sustainably managed by the Marine Stewardship Council.
Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation Measures
Recent research has confirmed sea levels are rising in the Falklands. Scientists have been able to compare modern sea level measurements obtained from tide gauges and from satellite radar altimeters with historical measurements made at Port Louis in 1842. The data show that sea levels have risen by an average of approximately 0.75 millimetres a year between 1842 and the early 1980s. Unsurprisingly, the data also show that sea level rise has accelerated over recent decades by an average of approximately 2.5 millimetres a year since 1992. Although the UK Joint Nature Conservation Committee did launch a series of outreach materials focussed on climate change in 2008 there is a need for further analysis of data gathered by the UK Falkland Islands Trust climate change project to assess the level of risk and potential mitigation measures required.