Fishing operations will be restricted to parts of the West Coast for the next ten years in an effort to save African penguins from the brink of extinction.
Barbara Creecy, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environmental Affairs, said on Friday that some areas around large penguin colonies will no longer be able to be used commercially to catch anchovies and sardines.
These areas include Dassen Island, Robben Island, Stony Point, Dyer Island, St. Croix Island and Bird Island.
“Fishing restrictions around penguin colonies address only one aspect of combating the decline in the penguin population, therefore it is not a miracle intervention,” says Creecy.
“This should be seen as additional to the other interventions in the penguin management plan, such as better management of land predators, habitat conservation and the mitigation of disease and pollution.”
These restrictions will be reviewed again in 2030, after six years of implementation.
The decision follows an expert report on the well-being of African penguins and the impact that humans have on the survival of this species.
The critically endangered African penguin, which is endemic to South Africa and Namibia, is at risk of extinction by 2035 if action is not taken.
Of the approximately one million pairs of penguins that gathered on Southern Africa’s coastlines a century ago, there are only 10,000 left today.
Competition for food is thought to be one of the main reasons for the decline, Creecy said.
Shipping pollution and the degradation of suitable habitats are also to blame.
Diseases and extreme weather conditions, such as heavy rains that wash away nests and chicks, have also taken a toll, according to experts.