Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment on interim fishing closures and limitations around key penguin colonies

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment has, from 1 September, declared some areas around the major penguin colonies as closed to commercial fishing for anchovy and sardine.

These restrictions follow prolonged negotiations with the seabird conservation groups and the pelagic fishing industry representatives. While these closures do not represent a consensus position between the two sectors, the Department is of the view that this is the best decision we can take at this stage to support penguin populations.

During the negotiations, both sectors were committed to discussions and offered meaningful contributions from insights into the fishing industry and conservation science. The Department has thanked the Pelagic Fishing Industry and Conservation organisations and their representatives for contributing to these discussions.

The closures will be temporary to allow for an international scientific panel to be set up to review all related science output over recent years. The review will advise the Department on the value of fishing limitations for penguins’ success, as well as the impacts such limitations will have on the fishing industry. Both sectors have committed to abiding by the recommendations of the international panel. The Minister will shortly release a gazette calling for nominations to serve on the international review panel.

The sardine stock in South African waters continues to be at historically low levels. Competition for food is thought to be one among a set of pressures that are contributing to the decline of the African penguin population.

Other pressures include shipping traffic and the associated noise and vibrations, pollution and degradation of suitable nesting habitats through historic removal of guano and coastal commercial and residential developments.

The species which is endemic to South Africa and Namibia has decreased from more than a million breeding pairs to just about ten thousand pairs over the last century. The Terms of Reference for the science review and the panel members were established in consultation with the representatives from the fishing and bird conservation sectors.

The interim fishing limitations came into effect from the 1st of September 2022 to the 14th of January 2023 and include defined areas around Dassen Island, Robben Island, Stony Point, Dyer Island, St. Croix Island and Bird Island. These represent the remaining locations of the larger penguin colonies. Purse seine fishing is also not permitted in False Bay which hosts the resident Boulders Beach penguin population.

Source: Government of South Africa