Cape Town - The Stony Point Penguin Colony near Hermanus in the Western Cape has been closed to the public after a trawler ran aground at Betty's Bay and spilled diesel into the sea.
“It's closed to the public at the moment, it's unknown when it will reopen,” CapeNature spokesman Justin Lawrence said on Friday.
“Yes, it's because of this incident... we want to keep a closer eye on the birds.”
The 19.63 metre fishing vessel, carrying 10 000 litres of diesel and engine oil, ran aground about five kilometres from the marine protected area on Thursday, threatening the colony.
Lawrence said the 4000-strong penguin colony was being watched closely.
“We are monitoring the penguins at the moment. We don't have any birds affected by the diesel spill so far. The monitoring will be indefinite.”
Stony Point is home to various penguin species and breeding birds.
The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) said six men were able to escape from the boat by jumping onto rocks. A seventh man, believed to be the skipper, apparently hit his head on the rocks and drowned.
NSRI spokesman Craig Lambinon said the 43-year-old's body had been recovered.
“It is believed that the vessel hit rocks... in the vicinity of Voelklip, Betty's Bay,” he said.
The survivors, from Cape Town, received treatment and counselling.
The SA Maritime Safety Authority, Disaster Risk Management, and CapeNature were assessing the spill for environmental control.
Police opened an inquest docket.
The Stony Point Penguin Colony is one of only three mainland-based colonies in South Africa, about 90km from Cape Town.
According to the University of Cape Town's Avian Demography Unit, the colony dates back to 1982 and was unfenced in the beginning.
By 1986, there were about 40 nests. After a leopard attack, the colony was fenced off in 1987 to keep predators out. The colony has since grown considerably and is sustained by ongoing immigration.