Situated within the South Atlantic, the Falkland Islands comprise an archipelago of over 400 islands, covering an area of 12,200 square kilometres In recent times, sheep farming has been eclipsed in economic terms by the highly lucrative sale of licences to fish within the Island's Conservation Zone Although the coastal zone supports large populations of manne birds and mammals, almost nothing is known about the subtidal environment.
In July of 1996, the Falkland Island Government formally closed the bidding for oil exploration rights to 19 areas of seabed to the north and south of the Islands. Once complete, and if the testing proves positive, the extraction of oil may become a major feature of the Falkland economy
With the potential for environmental damage and the lack of knowledge of the regional marine ecosystem, the Falkland Island Government cornmissioned the first survey of the coastal waters of the Islands, and this was duly undertaken during the austral summer of 1996.
Using adaptations of surveying methods developed and used by U.K organisations, 250 stations were examned, and almost 450 species collected The range of marine life was high in both abundance and diversity, with Macrocystis "forests" a common habitat Due to the frequent violent oceanic swell many animal groups were particularly well adapted for encrusting or burrowing.
Situated within the South Atlantic, but forming a projection of the eastern South American continental shelf, the Falkland Islands comprise an archipelago of over 400 islands, covering an area of 12,170 square kilometres Since their discovery at the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Islands have historically remained in relative obscurity, despite a visit from Charles Darwin during his celebrated voyage with HMS Beagle Darwin was less than impressed with the Islands, describing them as ‘An undulating land, with a desolate and wretched aspect, is everywhere covered by a peaty soil and wiry grass, of one monotonous brown colour’. After the voyage he did, however, acknowledge that his opinion may have been somewhat influenced by the climate (Darwin, 1902).
In fact, at least amongst seafarers, the Islands have long been considered of logistical importance Tierra del Fuego is some 600 krn away, with the southern extension of Cape Horn providing the last barrier before passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans can be completed During the flourishing sail-dominated trading of the latter part of the nineteenth century Stanley Harbour became an extremely busy port The frequently fearsome weather conditions of the South Atlantic forced many a vessel to run for the relative protection of the Falkland Island embayrnents, and some were damaged so badly that they never put to sea again, despite the efforts of a small, but highly profitable, ship provisioning and repair industry The decline of sail in favour of steam eventually led to a huge reduction in the number of vessels visiting the Islands, and the population settled into agriculture, principally sheep-farming, as the sole source of revenue