Penguin conservation

Expert Review Panel appointed to advise on fishing closures and limitations around key penguin colonies

The Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Barbara Creecy, has appointed an Expert Review Panel to advise on managing the interactions between the small pelagic (anchovy and sardines) fishery and the conservation of African penguins.

African penguins are endemic to South Africa and Namibia, but have decreased from more than a million breeding pairs to about 10 000 pairs in the last century.

In September 2022, the department announced the interim closure of some areas around major penguin colonies along the South African coastline to commercial fishing for anchovy and sardine between September 2022 and 14 January 2023 as a precautionary measure aimed at ensuring the survival of the species while balancing ecological an socio-economic interests. The limitation on fishing has been extended to mid-April 2023, and further decisions on the matter will be made depending on the work schedule of the Expert Review Panel.

The Expert Review Panel will review all related science outputs over recent years, including the outcomes of the island closure experiment undertaken by the department over the last decade.

The terms of reference for the science review and the panel members were established in consultation with the representatives from the fishing and bird conservation sectors. The panel will advise the department on the appropriateness and value of fishing limitations for penguin trends. This is a key issue as the sardine stock in South African waters remains at low levels. Competition for food is thought to be among one of the pressures contributing to the decline of African penguin populations. Other pressures include shipping traffic and the associated noise and vibrations, pollution and degradation of suitable nesting habitats through historical removal of guano and coastal commercial, and residential developments.

The international panel is chaired by Professor André Punt (USA), with members Dr Ana Parma (Argentina), Dr Eva Plagányi (Australia), Professor Philip Trathan (UK) and Professor Robert Furness (UK).

The Expert Review Panel, which has already started its work, focuses on the following:

  • Review the interpretation of the island closure experiment (ICE).
  • Explore the value of island closures in providing meaningful benefits to penguins.
  • Review the processes and outcomes completed through the Governance Forum and the Consultative Advisory Forum for Marine Living Resources (CAFMLR) process.
  • Make recommendations on the implementation of island closures, including spatial delineation, time frames and
  • Advise on further science and monitoring methods.

To access the gazette, click here

The South African Pelagic Fishing Industry Association (SAPFIA) is a legally recognised industrial body which represents a large number of Rights Holder who hold approximately 68.6% of sardine rights and 81.7% of anchovy rights in the small pelagic fishing sector.

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