Cape Town - Proposals addressing the rapidly declining population of endangered African penguin, were made by a joint task team, formed by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, and SANParks, to determine management options for the species’ survival and its breeding colonies.
A high level meeting will be held this week, where the proposals will be delivered and a way forward, addressing the population decline while minimising the negative economic impact on the pelagic fishery sector, would be established with the necessary stakeholders from the fishing, conservation, and small-scale fishing industries.
Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy set up the joint task team to determine management options for the African penguin, based on available evidence, and NEMA principles of conservation, precautionary approaches, and balancing ecological and socio-economic interests.
Department spokesperson Zolile Nqayi said one of the key proposals to be delivered was for fishing around six penguin colonies to be limited, which would have economic implications for the small pelagic fishery sector.
The affected colonies included Robben Island, Dyer Island, Dassen Island, Stony Point, St Croix, and Bird Island.
“These are not the only existing colonies, but have been identified because they support larger numbers of breeding penguins,” said Nqayi.
Dyer Island Conservation Trust conservation manager Trudi Malan said: “Fishing is not allowed on the island. The issue is the purse-seine fisheries around the island. We believe that better spatial management of fishery catches, during certain times of the year, when penguins are breeding, would benefit the penguins on Dyer Island.”
Malan said concern for the decrease in the species’ population led to the implementation of the Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP) for the African Penguin, Spheniscus demersus, in 2013, which aimed to stop the decline within two years. However, this plan failed to halt the decline or reverse it.
Malan added that collaboration, to prevent the extinction of a species, was important, and they hoped this new collaboration would provide better outcomes.
Nqayi said, if the current population trajectories continued, African penguins could be functionally extinct within 15 years.