Date: January 16, 2018
Source: University of Exeter
Small no-fishing zones around colonies of African penguins can help this struggling species, new research shows.
Working with the South African government, researchers from the universities of Exeter and Cape Town tested bans on catching "forage fish" such as sardines and anchovies -- key prey for the endangered penguins -- from 20km around their breeding islands.
The body condition and survival of chicks improved when the no-fishing zones were in place.
More research is needed, but the scientists say the fishing closures should continue in South Africa and should be considered elsewhere.
"The amount of forage fish caught worldwide is increasing and -- although the effects are disputed -- the impact on marine ecosystems could be severe," said Dr Richard Sherley, of the Environment and Sustainability Institute on the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall.
"Forage fish are a key link in the food chain as they eat plankton and are preyed on by numerous species including tuna, dolphins, whales and penguins.
"We need to do more to understand the circumstances in which small no-fishing zones will improve the food available to predators, but our research shows this is a promising way to help African penguins."