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Sliding towards extinction
Penguins are some of the world’s best-loved birds. Their comedic charisma and distinctive looks mean that they are instantly-recognisable to all, and are a firmly-established part of popular culture.
However, in the wild, most penguin species live in remote areas that humans rarely visit, and because of this, many will be shocked to learn that penguins are declining at an alarming rate. And if we don’t act, over half the world’s penguin species could go extinct.
The situation is urgent: after albatrosses, penguins are now the second most threatened group of seabirds in the world, with 10 of 18 species under threat of extinction. And like albatrosses, interaction with fisheries is one of the driving forces behind declines.
Tangled and drowned
Gillnets, fine mesh nets used by fishermen to catch fish by the gills, are almost invisible to seabirds when they are underwater. When they dive, penguins can become entangled in them – resulting in critical numbers of some species being entangled and drowned. Penguins can also get caught up in trawl nets, when feeding on smaller fish dropping out the net. Tangled and unable to escape, the penguin drowns.
New research led by BirdLife International has revealed that all but four penguin species have been recorded as casualties of gillnets – with Magellanic, Humboldt and Yellow-eyed Penguins most at risk. On top of this, overfishing of their food sources can make it harder and harder for penguins to find enough fish to support themselves and raise their chicks.
Our work is already underway – but we need your help!
With your support, we can work with fishermen, using new technologies to prevent penguins from becoming accidentally caught in their nets. We can lobby governments to create Marine Protected Areas where fishing is controlled, providing safe, plentiful feeding zones for penguins. We can help to establish new penguin colonies, bringing penguins closer to abundant fish sources.