Penguin future looks perkier with marine zone: study
AFP/File – File photo shows penguins being released
into the wild off the coast of Cape Town. A ban on fishing
Wed Feb 10, 3:10 am ET
PARIS (AFP) –
A ban on fishing around a colony of threatened penguins in South Africa has brought swift benefits to the beleaguered birds, marine biologists reported on Wednesday. The population of the African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) fell by 60 percent between 2001 and 2009, driven by a plunge in anchovies and sardines, with climate change and purse-seine trawling fingered as the main culprits. Of the 26,000 surviving pairs, the biggest colony is on St. Croix Island in Algoa Bay, on the eastern coast of South Africa.
There, experts tagged adult birds and monitored them before and after a
ban on purse-seine fishing that took effect in a 20-kilometre (12-mile)
radius from January 2009.
Before the ban, 75 percent of the penguins had to venture beyond 20 kilometres to find food, they found.
Three months after trawling was stopped, 70 percent of the birds were
feeding within the 20-km zone, tucking into fish that now became
Fifty kilometers away at Bird Island, there is also a large colony of African penguins, but fishing there is still permitted. The birds are still doing long-haul swims to find food, the investigators found. The finding is important because the St. Croix birds
have decreased their daily energy expenditure by 40 percent, "enabling
them to invest energy in reproduction," said David Gremillet of
France's National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).
It is too early to say whether the penguins will have more chicks and how many of the youngsters will survive until adulthood. "It's something that has to be studied over the long term," Gremillet
told AFP. The species is likely to be classified as "endangered" this
month because of the sharp decline in the last decade.
The study, published by Britain's Royal Society in the journal Biology Letters, provides the first evidence about how quickly a threatened species can rebound when it is given a little help. "A marine protected area closed to fisheries can have immediate
benefits for an endangered marine top predator," say the authors.
Purse-seine fishing entails dropping a balloon-shaped net, or purse, to
a certain depth and then raising it underneath shoals of fish that swim
near the surface. The technique prevents the fish from swimming down to
The Penguin Camera is located on Torgersen Island (64°46’S, 64°04’W), off the coast of Anvers Island and less than a mile from Palmer Station. Torgersen Island is home to a colony of Adélie penguins numbering approximately 2,500. This camera is seasonal and operates primarily from October to February, the Adélie breeding season. The camera is solar-powered and may sometimes experience brief outages due to inclement weather. School classrooms and other educational demonstrations will often take control of the camera, moving it to gain better views of the colony.