2,742Grants to


African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 14059592

Investigation into the development of spatial management of South African fisheries for African penguin populations in the Western Cape.

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 14059592) - African Penguin - Awarded $4,000 on November 04, 2014

The African penguin is classified as Endangered by the IUCN and has undergone a rapid population decline which shows no sign of reversing. Within the last decade this has accelerated, and in South Africa, the population has decreased by around 10% per year since 2004. The main reason for the decline is thought to be a reduction in food availability which has influenced breeding success and adult survival. Recently the range of the small pelagic fish, which constitute the main part of the penguins’ diet, has shifted away from the breeding colonies in the Western Cape. This has resulted in a spatial mismatch between the penguins and their prey. This change in prey distribution is thought to result from the changing environmental conditions and the impact of the regional commercial purse-seine fishery effort. Poor sardine availability, linked to commercial fishing close to the breeding colonies, may be one of the largest factors affecting the population. However the extent to which penguins compete for food with commercial fisheries and over what spatial scale it occurs has not been determined.


As the population decline continues it becomes increasingly important to understand the penguin-fishery competition and implement appropriate management actions. Small-scale fishing closures around colonies and spatial restrictions on fishing over larger areas can be put in place to reduce the competition. Trial closures have resulted in reductions in penguin foraging effort and increased breeding success, but have been insufficient in addressing poor adult survival. More information is needed to determine the effectiveness of fisheries management as a conservation tool. This project aims to measure breeding success, adult survival and foraging parameters during planned fishery closures in 2015, to assess whether fisheries management activity can positively influence penguin fitness. This information will be critical in guiding future conservation management actions such as the introduction of long-term fisheries management plans to prevent further population decline.


African penguin breeding success, adult survival and foraging parameters have been measured at Robben Island since at least 2008. This study will monitor these factors using camera traps, RFID readers and GPS data loggers as spatial fisheries management comes into effect, to assess the efficacy of these as conservation interventions.


The funds contributed by the Mohamed bin Zayed Endangered Species Fund will provide valuable financial support for the project and will contribute to help stem the decline of the only penguin species in Africa.





Project 14059592 location - South Africa, Africa