Department of Forestry and Fisheries and the Environment - Republic of South Africa

08/31/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/01/2023 01:09

Agreement on prioritising foraging grounds for African penguins through limiting fishing in Algoa Bay

31 August 2023

"The conservation sector and the fishery industry representatives for the east coast small pelagic fisheries have reached an agreement on prioritising areas for penguin conservation around St. Croix Island and Bird Island in Algoa Bay," says the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Barbara Creecy.

Conservation organisations represented by BirdlifeSA, WWF, the Endangered Wildlife Trust and scientists from Nelson Mandela University, together with lead representatives from the Eastern and Southern Cape Pelagic Association (ESCPA) have agreed to exclude fishing in 42,17% and 93% of core penguin foraging areas around St. Croix and Bird Islands respectively. These agreed areas will be implemented from September 1, 2023.

The penguin foraging areas in Algoa are characterised by relatively large ocean spaces. The report of the Expert Review Panel on fishing closures and limitations around key penguin colonies noted that the scientific evidence suggests that fish catches in closed areas will be more difficult to replace around the St. Croix and Dyer islands. These are some of the local characteristics that had to be taken into consideration during these negotiations.

"The representatives from the various organisations are congratulated and thanked for their investment in offering compromise and reaching consensus. All representatives found common ground in prioritising a healthy and sustainably-used Algoa Bay ecosystem. Such stakeholder-owned decisions are a first prize in environmental management and is welcomed," said Minister Creecy.

On 4 August, the Minister released the Report from the Science Review on information relating to the Small Pelagic Fishery and the African Penguin. The Report recommended that penguin colony-specific discussions take place as each colony has unique fishery and ecological dynamics, including that fish catch dynamics and replaceability vary at different colonies.

Fishing limitations have been established for the following penguin colonies: Dassen Island, Robben Island, Stoney Point, Dyer Island, St. Croix Island and Bird Island. These are to be implemented for a minimum of 10 years with a review after six years of implementation and data collection. The transition to implementing fishing limitations started with continuing with the interim closures established in September 2022, while both the fishing industry and the conservation sector studied the Panel's Report.

"As announced upon the release of the Panel's Report, any consensus on fishing limitations, will be implemented as they are agreed. This agreement for St. Croix and Bird Islands is such an agreement," said Minister Creecy.

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