Habitat destruction which occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries may still be playing a role in the penguin population decline. Penguins naturally breed in burrows in deep guano deposits. The historical removal of guano from breeding islands has exposed breeding penguins and their chicks to a range of hazards including adverse weather, disease and predators. The penguin population suffered severe population declines long before the start of the pelagic fishery in the late 1940s.
Other possible impacts such as climate change and competition with other predators cannot be discounted.
These hypotheses need to be evaluated using methods in line with current best international scientific practice. What is needed urgently is to establish the major reasons for the continuing penguin decline. Possible management action should focus on addressing those, not on closing fishing around the islands which has been scientifically demonstrated to have at most a very limited effect.
SAPFIA completely supports the process which has been initiated by the Minister DFFE and would like to participate in this process together with all scientists at DFFE, Oceans and Coasts and Fisheries Branch, as well as SANParks and other scientific researchers or other stakeholders. The Minister has requested a complete analysis of the cause of the declines and what corrective actions should be taken, together with socio-economic studies that identify the benefit to the penguins and the socio-economic gains and losses, so that the correct informed decision can be made.