Most Penguin Populations Continue to Decline -- What can YOU do?

You can help rescue penguins, everyday.

[One hundred and eighty] penguin biologists from [22 nations] around the world...warn that ten of the planet's eighteen penguin species have experienced further serious population declines. The effects of climate change, overfishing, chronic oil pollution, and predation by introduced mammals are among the major factors cited repeatedly by penguin scientists as contributing to these population drops. ...Thirteen penguin species are already classified as endangered or threatened. Some penguin species may face extinction in this century.

Penguins are found exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere with a single species on the Galapagos Islands at the Equator to four Antarctic penguin species that are most well known to the public, yet 13 other species also live in South America, southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and on the many sub-Antarctic islands. Throughout their ranges, nearly all of penguin species are in significant decline or under duress due to a host of common factors.

Climate Change

The effects of climate change on different penguin species has been the topic of many of the scientists's papers and presentations. Many penguin species are highly dependent on small schooling fish for food. These masses of anchovies, sardines and other small finfish are seasonally brought to many penguin habitats by cold water currents. In years with El Nino events in the Pacific, there has been a dramatic warming of sea surface temperatures which effectively blocked cold water currents coming up the western coast of South America. Consequently, Galapagos penguins and Humboldt penguins, which are found on the coasts of Peru and Chile, have suffered due to reduced food availability, which principally affects the survival of the young. Galapagos penguins stand a 30% probability of becoming extinct in this century and Humboldt penguins have been classified by the Peruvian government as endangered.

Earlier this year, African penguins, found in Namibia and South Africa, were reclassified internationally as endangered as many breeding colonies in the western part of their range have disappeared. Important food bearing cold water currents have shifted and are now routinely found much further offshore. The increased round-trip commuting distance for African penguins to obtain food has been devastating to their population.

Scientists are closely watching the potential effects on several Antarctic penguin species that are highly dependent on the presence of sea ice for breeding, foraging and molting. Emperor penguins, which were the subject of "March of the Penguins," could see major population declines by 2100, if they do not adapt, migrate and change the timing of their growth stages.

Adelie penguin colonies in the Antarctic's Ross Sea have coped for several years with two super-sized icebergs that have grounded there and created an enormous physical barrier. It has resulted in lower breeding rates and the migration of many animals out of the area.

Sea ice also creates an important nursey cover for juvenile krill which feed on ice algae. Krill is the primary fuel at the base the Antarctic food chain. Reduced sea ice cover has led to a dramtic decline in krill and will likely lead to a decline in many wildlife populations further up the food chain that relies on krill as its foundation food source.

The effects of climate change on penguins are very real. Many environmental conditions are changing and much less predictable. For penguins living in harsh conditions, the ability to properly time when to migrate, nest, mate and seek food are critical decisions often with a very small margin for error, both for both individual animals and entire species.

Overfishing and By-catch

As fishing efforts around the globe have multiplied several fold over the last few decades, penguins are now competing with people for enough food. The large scale harvesting of anchovy and sardine stocks have directly reduced the prey available to many penguin species including Macaroni and Chinstrap penguins in the South Atlantic. Combined with the effects of climate change on the locations of fish stocks, reduced food availability leads to higher starvation rates, increased vulnerability to disease and lower breeding success.

Thousands of penguins are also killed annually when caught in fixed fishing nets.

Chronic Oiling

Large scale oil spills make worldwide headlines, but chronic petroleum pollution has killed thousands of penguins particularly off the coasts of South America and South Africa. The most common sources are illegal operational dumping from ships, long term leaks from sunken ships and some land-based discharges. Better legislation and law enforcement efforts can yield positive results. The incidence of oiling of Magellanic penguins off the coast of Argentina has decline significantly in recent years due to increased public awareness and enforcement.

Introduced Mammalian Predators

Many penguin species evolved in extremely remote settings devoid of any mammal predators. Prior to the arrival of humans, New Zealand's only mammals were bats. Now, introduced weasels have had a large impact on the the small populations of Yellow-Eyed and Fiordland penguins. In Australia and Argentina, the arrival of foxes have had impacts while feral cats in the Galapagos have reduced penguin populations there.

What Can YOU do?

Dyan deNapoli, "the Penguin Lady", author of The Great Penguin Rescue and member of Oceanic Defense's Aquatic Army says, "Some of the primary threats to penguin populations are global warming, overfishing, fishing net entrapment, and chronic oiling. To save penguins, our oceans, and all of nature, we each need to take a good, hard look at our lifestyle and change any of our habits that contribute to these ongoing problems. It all begins in our own back yards. And it's also true that one person truly CAN make a difference. It all begins with one person with one idea who then shares it with others and brings them on board. Others, still, are then inspired by their shared passion and drive, and before you know it, you have a movement!" At Oceanic Defense we know that saving the ocean starts with each of US and the choices we make everyday in our lives -- in the grocery store, in our homes, and most importantly in our decision to be an activist or an in-activist for the oceans.

Together we can help penguin populations wherever we live. You can start by understanding your carbon footprint and working to lower it because that directly addresses the growing threat of global warming; you can start with simple travel and transportation calculations. Next, always know what you are eating, from land or sea, and what its environmental, ecological, and sociological impacts are. If you choose to eat seafood, use a reputable source to determine how sustainable it is so you can make good decisions. Most importantly, stay informed and share your knowledge with your friends, family, schools, and communities and social networks. Educate. Activate.

Source: ScienceDaily (Sept. 9, 2010) — http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2010/09/100906145115.htm

About Oceanic Defense
We are an international non-profit organization with members in over 60 countries, spanning 6 continents with 1 mission; healthy aquatic ecosystems free from human abuse and neglect. Oceanic Defense educates people to protect our oceans by acting responsibly as consumers and by making smart decisions in our daily lives. Whether we are buying groceries, commuting to work, planning a vacation or advocating within our own communities and internationally; each action we take or decision we make either helps or hurts our oceans. We activate people to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem and work together to protect our blue planet. Educate. Activate.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this important information about declining penguin populations. To save penguins - and all other marine creatures - we need to save our oceans. And it all begins with each of us. As Gandhi said, "BE the change you want to see in the world."