It is urgent therefore that targeted scientific research be carried out to determine the cause of the decline in the penguin population so that appropriate steps can be taken to halt and reverse the decline. An initial comprehensive list of possible impacts that need to be credibly and scientifically quantified should include but not be limited to the following: historical egg harvests, historical guano harvests, disease, natural predators, parasites, oiling, seal predation/competition, invasive alien predators (such as cats, rats, mice, dogs and caracal), global warming, prey biomass levels and local competition with fishing. Seals have been protected in South Africa since 1973 and have increased substantially in numbers since that time. In addition to direct predation by some seals on penguins, seals may compete with penguins for food, as well as for breeding habitat. The likely scale of the impact of competition with seals on penguins can be estimated using mathematical models, and the results of this scientific research is urgently required to guide decision making regarding penguins. SAPFIA will remain an active positive participant in this scientific process and debate.
There are important factors other than fishing in the vicinity of breeding islands that may be having a negative impact on the penguin population. Two that are potentially significant are insufficient food and habitat destruction.