African penguin numbers are declining because of a lack of food

It is reported in The Times newspaper that the African Penguin is under a genuine threat of extinction because of a lack of food. Their numbers have declined by 20% in five years, the South African government says.

South African penguin
South African penguin. Photo in public domain.

It is affecting other seabirds and marine ecosystem. About a century ago there were 1 million African penguins in South Africa and Namibia. A count in 2018 found only 15,000 breeding pairs on the South African coast. They believe that there are 5,000 pairs in Namibia.

Christina Hagen of Bird Life South Africa said:

“Some of the colonies we thought were doing okay are actually in a bad way.”

The government is considering a ban on fishing near penguin colonies during certain months but of course they have received complaints from a fishing industry which is considered to be “beleaguered”.

There are other factors in the decline in numbers. There are oil spills and seismic surveys carried out within the feeding range of colonies. There have been to oil spills at a “bunkering” hub in Algoa Bay which is a marine protected area. It’s an area where 40% of South Africa’s penguins live on two uninhabited islands. The bunkering hub refers to a method concerning oil to boost the economy.

The colony of penguins at Boulders Beach near Cape Town is a popular tourist attraction bringing in £10 million a year to the economy. Penguins are one of the top predators amongst marine wildlife. They heard fish to the surface to give other birds a chance to feed.

Reading between the lines, we can see that human activity with respect to commercialisation is once again negatively impacting wildlife including marine wildlife. It has always been thus. Where there is increased human population, there is increased human activity with respect to commercialising the environment which must have a negative impact upon all kinds of species.