Penguin species are increasingly threatened by of a combination of manmade factors, including climate change and overfishing, a new study has found.
The comprehensive review, which investigated the prospects of all penguin species, calls for action to mitigate a range of effects that are pushing some species nearer to extinction.
In 2013, eleven of the eighteen penguin species were officially listed as ‘threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with another two listed as ‘near threatened’.
Some are are suffering because of food scarcity, because of competition from the fishing industry, while some are being caught accidentally in fishing nets.
The study identifies oil pollution as the biggest manmade cause of penguin deaths worldwide. Penguins are especially vulnerable to oil spills as they must keep their plumage clean.
Other forms of pollution, habitat degradation and the impacts of climate change are also significant threats.
The study puts forward several ways that penguins might be protected, including the enforcement of new marine protected areas.
However, Phil Trathan of the British Antarctic Survey, the lead author of the study, admitted “it is not always practical or politically feasible” to cordon off new marine reserves.
“However, there are other ecosystem-based management methods that can help maintain biodiversity and a healthy ecosystem,” he said.
These include the strategic spacing of fisheries and shipping lanes, and the introduction of rules that would limit the amount of certain fish that fisherman can catch.
In July a separate study warned that the Antarctic-dwelling emperor penguin, perhaps the most iconic of penguin species, could be put at serious extinction risk by the impacts of climate change.
Despite optimistic short-term forecasts, the study suggests that all of the 45 known emperor penguin colonies would be in decline by the end of the century, with as many as two-thirds cut by more than 50%, if the Antarctic warms as expected.
Photo: Anne Fröhlich via Flickr
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