SAPFIA shares in the concern about the continued decline in the numbers of African penguins. For this reason, SAPFIA is committed to participating in the scientific process initiated by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE), and the deliberations concerning the potential impact of fishing on penguin population dynamics, as well as engaging with other scientific deliberations related to the development of a management plan for African penguins. We are of the opinion that the management of South African pelagic fisheries is conservative and consistent with pronouncements made in scientific publications and other fora such as ecolabelling certification schemes, to ensure that adequate prey provision is being made for top predators such as the African penguin.
An ‘Island Closure Experiment’ (ICE) under the auspices of DFFE, has been conducted since 2008 at Dassen Island, Robben Island, Bird Island and St Croix. This has involved alternating years of opening or closing islands so that 50% of these four islands are closed in any one year. The purpose has been to determine the scale of the effect of fishing around breeding islands on the penguin population growth rate. SAPFIA has been and remains an active participant in this experiment. The scientific calculations from ICE suggest that island closures will have a negligible benefit for the penguin population growth rate. This small effect will not meaningfully arrest the ongoing decline in the penguin population over recent decades. SAPFIA is fully committed to the sustainability of the small pelagic resource and its surrounding ecosystem. SAPFIA participates in and will continue to participate in all scientific deliberations regarding the responsible management of the small pelagic fishery convened by DFFE (Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment). In the following days we will unpack what is happening currently and leading up to the decline of the African Penguin Population and will be explaining the many factors that are involved here and our continued work on with DFFE and their scientists and scientific community.