Climate Change And Overfishing Lead African Penguins Into Deadly Traps

By Micheala Sosby
March 21, 2017

It’s hard out there for young African penguins looking for a bite to eat. They can’t adapt quickly to rapid changes in climate and fishing. Juvenile African penguins travel thousands of miles along the South African and Namibian coasts, searching for breeding grounds. The birds follow signs for sardines and anchovies, their favorite cuisine.

Paula Bronstein


But when they arrive at what they thought would be a buffet, jellyfish and other less nutritious fish are all that’s left. Low ocean temperatures and the smell of plankton used to be reliable signs of food, but climate change and overfishing have depleted fish stocks.

New research has shown that this ecological trap is responsible for reducing penguin breeding numbers by 50 percent. That’s especially bad news since African penguins have been endangered since 2010.

Researchers say catch limits and other conservation efforts could help the penguins, but more research needs to be done to protect them from the forces that affect their prey.

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