Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries concerned about the decrease in African penguins
The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries has noted with great concern, downward trends in the population of the African Penguins (Spheniscus demersus) in South Africa. This follows the department’s research findings into the species.
Recently the department released for public comment the Draft Biodiversity Management Plan for the African Penguin that was published in Government Gazette No. 42775 (Notice No. 1328) by the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy, on 18 October 2019.
The Draft Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP) aims to update and continue the work initiated in the initial Plan published in 2013 on account of the rapid decrease of the species.
The second African Penguin BMP will continue to coordinate and implement the various conservation initiatives of South African agencies aimed at the recovery of the species. It will also facilitate South Africa’s contribution to international efforts to improve the conservation status of African Penguins, such as, the African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), while other agencies, including NGOs and academic institutions, are expected to contribute substantially to efforts to improve the conservation status of the species through research, rehabilitation and other activities.
The updated BMP proposes new actions to conserve the species and halt the decline of the African Penguin in South Africa within its 5-year timeframe.
Amongst its proposals is to increase the population of African Penguins to a level where the birds are down listed by the International Union for Conservation for Nature (IUCN), and to ensure the survival of the African Penguin in a healthy environment in light of the tourism revenue it generates and the number of jobs linked to the species.
The African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus), Africa’s only extant penguin, is endemic to Namibia and South Africa. It was formerly the most abundant seabird of the Benguela upwelling ecosystem but, following large declines of the species in the 20th Century and a collapse of the South African population in recent years, the African Penguin is now classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation for Nature (IUCN) in 2010. The species has declined by over 60% in the last 30 years and by over 50% in its three most recent generations. The South African population of African Penguins is found in three areas along the Western Cape coast.
Despite the implementation of the action plan linked to the 2013 BMP, the aim to halt the decline in the species have not been successful. It is, therefore, necessary that the plan be revised and extended to operate over from mid-2019 to 2024.
One of the reasons for the decrease of African Penguins is a scarcity of prey. The Draft Plan proposes the following steps to increase the population: limited fishing of its main prey around prioritised penguin colonies, and seasonally at feeding grounds; as well as minimising the risk of oil spills through the zoning of shipping and bunkering.
Given the present small size of the population, colony-specific interventions, such as the management of predation on African penguins, are also likely to play a major role.
Members of the public are invited to submit written representations on, or objections to, this draft Plan within 30 (thirty) days after the publication of the notice in the Gazette. Written representations or objections received after this time may not be considered.
Source: Government of South Africa