The oil spill in 1990 had already killed 40 percent of them, but in 2010 it was reported that 90 percent of the total number of African penguins has disappeared.
Although some experts are trying to come up with answers to what might have caused such a serious decline, others say that the explanation is a much simpler one – there are much fewer fish for these birds to feed on so they die of starvation. Massive fishing worldwide has also caused a decline in the fish population.
Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) launched an initiative in 2009 to find out just how much fish the penguins needed to survive in order to make sustainable plans to help them out. However, until now, very little progress was made in that direction.
This is quite worrying, because, given that very little is known about the exact cause of the decline, there is not much to be done. Those responsible for overfishing have blamed global warming, commercial vessels or predators such as seals or sharks for killing the birds.
According to some experts, fishermen might actually be right. Once the oil was leaked, leading to the death of so many sea creatures, including penguins, sardines and anchovies, which represented the main sources of food for the birds, moved further away. Thus, the penguins found it increasingly hard to swim for food. Some died of exhaustion on the way.
Climate change has had devastating effects on their population as well, because it largely affected the marine environment. It is also important to note that fishing has been a very popular activity in the area for many years. Still, the colonies of penguins lasted for a long time.
The answer probably lies in a combination of causes. This is why fishing should be limited to certain periods of time, when certain species of fish are not breeding.
Whether or not fisheries are responsible is not the most important aspect right now. What is crucial is for people to understand that the phenomenon is irreversible and their future actions can make a big difference.
Image Source: farmersalmanac