Tangled and drowned: new study shows that penguins are threatened by fishing nets


The following article is from BirdLife SA

Researchers from across the world have collaborated to produce the first global review of penguin bycatch, published in the scientific journal Endangered Species Research.

Penguins are among the world’s most loved birds, in spite of the fact most people will never get to see one in the wild. Indeed, the opportunities to do so are diminishing, with 10 of the 18 penguin species threatened with extinction. After albatrosses, they are the most threatened group of seabirds and, like albatrosses, bycatch is thought to be a serious threat to some species.

Bycatch, or the accidental capture of non-target animals in fisheries, is a threat to an array of marine life, including dolphins, turtles and seabirds. To date, however, there has been no global assessment of this threat to penguins. This first global review of penguin bycatch highlights that 14 penguin species have been recorded as bycatch in fisheries, and that gillnets – and to a lesser extent trawls – are the fishing gears of most concern for penguins. Both are widespread fishing gears, and gillnets in particular – walls of fine nylon mesh used to catch fish by the gills – are the gear of choice for many small-scale fishers the world over.

Diving birds like penguins, unable to see the fine mesh underwater, are particularly vulnerable to gillnets, becoming entangled as they dive. The effect of bycatch is of greatest concern for three species: Humboldt and Magellanic Penguins, both found in South America, and Yellow-eyed Penguins, an endangered species found only in New Zealand.

“This work provides a clear focus for reducing the impact of bycatch on penguins – across the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of South America, and perhaps most urgently, in New Zealand for the endemic Yellow-eyed Penguin,” said Rory Crawford, Gillnet Programme Manager for BirdLife International, and co-ordinator of the review. “This has been a major collaborative effort from the penguin research community, but the hard work starts now. There needs to be direct engagement with the fishing industry and management authorities to tackle this problem.”

“Our own African Penguins have been caught in gillnets in the past, but luckily the government acted quickly and put in place gillnet bans around penguin breeding colonies,” said Christina Hagen, the Pamela Isdell Fellow of Penguin Conservation at BirdLife South Africa. “But we don’t know if this continues to be a problem, and urge anyone with sightings or information to please contact us.”

“In the past 20 years, Yellow-eyed Penguins have declined by 76% at previous population strongholds. Preventing their deaths in New Zealand inshore gillnet fisheries is a major priority to save them”, added Ursula Ellenberg, the New Zealand Penguin scientist who initiated the global review.

The impact of penguin bycatch across South America will require collaboration across international borders: “Magellanic penguins are being caught along their migratory route – from trawl fisheries next to their Argentinean breeding grounds to gillnet fisheries off southern Brazil in the non-breeding period,” said Esteban Frere, South America Coordinator for the BirdLife Marine Programme, who first conducted research into the bycatch of this species 20 years ago. “Further studies on-board vessels are required to assess the severity of the problem and identify solutions.”

The review recommends a number of actions to tackle the problem, including the presence of fisheries observers or video monitoring on vessels to monitor bycatch, as well as research into mitigation measures to make nets more visible to penguins. While this research is conducted, spatial and temporal management of fisheries will need to be considered to reduce the impact on the most threatened populations.

While much work is still to be done to reduce penguin bycatch, inspiration can be taken from other fisheries. The BirdLife Albatross Task Force, a team of instructors working directly on fishing vessels to implement simple measures to reduce albatross bycatch, has succeeded in reducing bycatch in a South African trawl fishery by over 90%. It is hoped that similar success can be achieved for penguins.

For further information please contact:

Rory Crawford, Programme Manager – Gillnets
BirdLife International Marine Programme
Tel: +44 (0)141 331 9801
Mobile: +44 (0)7739 921 489
Christina Hagen, Pamela Isdell Fellow of Penguin Conservation BirdLife South Africa christina.hagen@birdlife.org.za Tel: +27 (0)21 4197347

The journal article can be downloaded here: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00869

The review represents the collaborative work of 29 co-authors from across the globe, drawing in expertise from environmental NGOs, academia and government fisheries departments.

Species and threat statuses (listed by BirdLife International for the IUCN Red List) of three species most threatened by bycatch:

 Yellow-eyed Penguin Megadyptes antipodes (Endangered).
 Humboldt Penguin Spheniscus humboldti (Vulnerable).
 Magellanic Penguin Spheniscus magellanicus (Near-Threatened).
More information about BirdLife and the Albatross Task Force can be found at http://www.birdlife.org/marine

Big Birding Day 2017


Our team, comprising Ronnie (Captain), Renee, Barbara and Ed, competed in the 2017 BBD yesterday.  This is the national competition in which teams must see how many bird species they can identify in a circular area of their choice with a 50 km radius.  303 teams took part (and recorded 659 unique species) and the winner notched up an incredible 302 species in the Polokwane area.  We managed to get 135 species which put us in the top 100, so we were well pleased with our day.

It started at 4:30 am and we birded from Stanford to Strandfontein, clocking just on 400 kms before we ended up at 7:30 pm, having concentrated on nothing but birds for 15 hours!  Needless to say we were pretty tired by then, having achieved our last bird, a Spotted Eagle Owl, outside Craig’s home, 10 minutes earlier.

Updated Duinepos Listing

Duinepos Outing   –   128 Species seen
Apalis Bar throated Martin Common house
Avocet Pied Martin Rock
Barbet Acacia pied Masked-Weaver Southern
Batis Cape Moorhen Common
Batis Pririt Mousebird Red faced
Bee-eater European Mousebird Speckled
Bishop Red Mousebird White backed
Bishop Yellow Neddicky
Bittern Little Night-Heron Black crowned
Bokmakierie Nightjar Fiery necked
Boubou Southern Nightjar Rufous cheeked
Brownbul Terrestrial Olive-Pigeon African
Bulbul Cape Openbill African
Bulbul Red eyed Oriole Black headed
Bunting Cape Osprey
Bunting Cinnamon breasted Ostrich Common
Bunting Lark like Owl Barn
Bush-shrike Olive Owl Cape eagle
Bustard Denham’s Owl Spotted eagle
Bustard Kori Oystercatcher African black
Bustard Ludwig’s Painted-snipe African
Buzzard Common Paradise-Flycatcher African
Buzzard Forest Partridge Chukar
Buzzard Jackal Peacock Common
Canary Black headed Pelican Great white
Canary Black throated Penduline-Tit Cape
Canary Brimstone Penguin African
Canary Cape Petrel Pintado
Canary Forest Petrel White chinned
Canary White throated Pigeon Speckled
Canary Yellow Pipit African
Chaffinch Pipit Long billed
Chat Ant eating Pipit Plain backed
Chat Familiar Plover Chestnut banded
Chat Karoo Plover Common ringed
Chat Sickle winged Plover Greater sand
Cisticola Cloud Plover Grey
Cisticola Grey backed Plover Kittlitz’s
Cisticola Le Vaillant’s Plover Lesser sand
Cisticola Zitting Plover Three banded
Coot Red knobbed Plover White fronted
Cormorant Bank Pochard Southern black
Cormorant Cape Prinia Karoo
Cormorant Crowned Puffback Black backed
Cormorant Reed Quail Common
Cormorant White breasted Quailfinch African
Coucal Burchell’s Quelea Red billed
Courser Bouble banded Rail African
Courser Burchell’s Raven White necked
Crake African Redshank Common
Crake Black Robin-chat Cape
Crane Blue Robin-chat Chorister
Crested-Flycatcher Blue mantled Rock-Jumper Cape
Crombec Long billed Rock-Thrush Cape
Crow Cape Rock-Thrush Sentinel
Crow House Roller European
Crow Pied Ruff
Cuckoo African Emerald Rush-Warbler Little
Cuckoo Black Sanderling
Cuckoo Diederik Sandgrouse Namaqua
Cuckoo Jacobin Sandpiper Common
Cuckoo Klaas’ Sandpiper Curlew
Cuckoo Red chested Sandpiper Marsh
Cuckooshrike Black Sandpiper Terek
Cuckooshrike Grey backed Sandpiper Wood
Curlew Eurasian Saw-Wing Black
Darter African Scrub-Robin Karoo
Dove Laughing Secretarybird
Dove Lemon Seedeater Protea
Dove Namaqua Seedeater Sreaky headed
Dove Red eyed Shearwater Sooty
Dove Rock Shelduck South African
Dove Tambourine Shoveller Cape
Drongo Fork tailed Siskin Cape
Duck African black Snake-Eagle Black chested
Duck Fulvous Snipe African
Duck Maccoa Sparrow Cape
Duck White backed Sparrow Grey headed
Duck White faced Sparrow House
Duck Yellow billed Sparrowhawk Black
Dunlin Sparrowhawk Little
Eagle African crowned Sparrowhawk Rufous chested
Eagle Booted Sparrowlark Black eared
Eagle Martial Sparrowlark Grey backed
Eagle Verreaux’s Spoonbill African
Egret Cattle Spurfowl Cape
Egret Intermediate Spurfowl Red necked
Egret Little Starling Cape glossy
Eremomela Karoo Starling Common
Eremomela Yellow bellied Starling Pale winged
Falcon Lanner Starling Pied
Falcon Peregrine Starling Red winged
Firefinch African Starling Wattled
Fiscal Common Stilt Black winged
Fish-Eagle African Stint Little
Flamingo Greater Stonechat African
Flamingo Lesser Stork Black
Flufftail Buff spotted Stork White
Flufftail Red Chested Sugarbird Cape
Flufftail Striped Sunbird Amethyst
Flycatcher African dusky Sunbird Dusky
Flycatcher Fairy Sunbird Greater double collored
Flycatcher Fiscal Sunbird Malachite
Flycatcher Spotted Sunbird Orange breasted
Francolin Grey winged Sunbird Southern double collared
Gannet Cape Swallow Barn
Godwit Bar tailed Swallow Greater striped
Goose Egyptian Swallow Lesser striped
Goose Spur winged Swallow Pearl breasted
Goshawk African Swallow White throated
Goshawk Gabar Swamphen Purple
Goshawk Pale chanting Swamp-Warbler Lesser
Grassbird Cape Swift African black
Grebe Black necked Swift African palm
Grebe Great crested Swift Alpine
Grebe Little Swift Horus
Greenbul Sombre Swift Little
Greenshank Common Swift White rumped
Guineafowl Helmeted Tchagra Southern
Gull Grey headed Teal Cape
Gull Hartlaub’s Teal Hottentot
Gull Kelp Teal Red billed
Gull Sabine’s Tern Antarctic
Hamerkop Tern Arctic
Harrier Black Tern Black
Harrier-hawk African Tern Caspian
Heron Black headed Tern Common
Heron Goliath Tern Damara
Heron Green backed Tern Little
Heron Grey Tern Roseate
Heron Purple Tern Sandwich
Heron Squacco Tern Swift
Honeybird Brown backed Tern Whiskered
Honey-Buzzard European Tern White winged
Honeyguide Greater Thick-knee Spotted eagle
Honeyguide Lesser Thick-knee Water
Honeyguide Scaly throated Thrush Karoo
Hoopoe African Thrush Olive
Ibis Glossy Tit Grey
Ibis Hadeda Titbabbler Chestnut vented
Ibis Sacred Titbabbler Layard’s
Kestrel Greater Trogon Nerina
Kestrel Lesser Turaco Knysna
Kestrel Rock Turnstone Ruddy
Kingfisher Brown hooded Turtle-Dove Cape
Kingfisher Giant Vulture Cape
Kingfisher Half collared   Wagtail Cape
Kingfisher Malachite Warbler African reed
Kingfisher Pied Warbler Cinamon breasted
Kite Black shouldered Warbler Knysna
Kite Yellow billed Warbler Namaqua
Knot Red Warbler Rufous eared
Korhaan Karoo Warbler Victorin’s
Korhaan Southern black Warbler Willow
Lapwing Blacksmith Waxbill Common
Lapwing Crowned Waxbill Swee
Lark Agulhas long billed Weaver Cape
Lark Cape clapper Wheatear Capped
Lark Cape long billed Wheatear Mountain
Lark Karoo Whimbrel Common
Lark Karoo long billed White eye Orange river
Lark Large billed White-Eye Cape
Lark Red capped Wood-hoopoe Green backed
Lark Sclater’s Woodland-Warbler Yellow throated
Lark Spike heeled Wood-Owl African
Longclaw Cape Woodpecker Cardinal
Mallard Woodpecker Ground
Marsh-Harrier African Woodpecker Knysna
Martin Banded Woodpecker Olive
Martin Brown throated Wydah Pin tailed

Cherry Mills


One of our founder members, Cherry Mills, passed away last weekend. She had been an active committee member and hers was the voice on our club DVD.

Her funeral will take place on Thursday 23rd at 11 at the United Church.  She will be greatly missed!

Duinepos Outing


Craig led the three day outing to Duinepos, which was attended by 16 lucky birders.  The weather looked threatening and it was supposed to rain all day on Tuesday, but, luckily for us, it fell on Monday night and we only had a small shower or two on Tuesday.

Our adventure started on Sunday with a visit to the Geelbek hides and surrounding area. Sadly there were not many waders present, but we saw a family of four Rock Kestrels on the roof of the restaurant and they kept us well occupied with their antics.  That evening we heard an owl calling and when I investigated on Monday morning, I thought we had found a Cape Eagle Owl.  This made for much excitement and we managed to see it again on the following two mornings, however, a photograph sent to Trevor Hardaker, dashed our hopes when he confirmed it as a Spotted Eagle Owl!

On Monday morning we traveled to Veldrif and visited the salt works at Kuifkopvisvanger Farm.  We had excellent sightings of many waders, including Chestnut Banded Plovers and Ruffs.  It was a very good morning!  In the afternoon, a visit to the Seeberg hide gave us the opportunity to see more waders and a good selection of Terns. A second visit to this hide on Tuesday morning added to our tally which was growing nicely. By the time we had visited Abrahamskraal for some freshwater birds, and the Atlantic coast, we had seen most of our target species.

On Wednesday morning the official outing ended and a few of us returned home, but not without another visit to Abrahamskraal, where we were rewarded with a pair of African Rails and another sighting of the rare Black-headed Canaries, that appear to have settled there.

Our species tally had reached the respectable total of 119, although it is likely that those remaining there for the next two days may well increase this number.

Apalis Bar-throated x Flamingo Greater x Owl Barn Teal Cape x
Avocet Pied x Flamingo Lesser x Oystercatcher African Black x Tern Caspian x
Barbet Acacia Pied x Flycatcher African Dusky Painted-snipe Greater Tern Common x
Batis Cape Flycatcher Fiscal x Paradise-Flycatcher African Tern Little x
Bee-eater European x Flycatcher Spotted Pelican Great White x Tern Sandwhich x
Bishop Southern Red x Francolin Grey-winged x Penguin African Tern Swift x
Bishop Yellow x Gannet Cape x Pigeon Speckled x Tern Whiskered
Bittern Little Godwit Bar-tailed Pipit African x Tern White-winged
Bokmakierie x Goose Egyptian x Pipit Long-billed Thick-knee Water
Boubou Southern Goose Spur-winged Pipit Plain-backed Thick-knee Spotted
Bulbul Cape x Goshawk African Plover Grey x Thrush Olive x
Bunting Cape x Goshawk Pale Chanting Plover Kittlitz’s x Tit Grey
Bustard Denham’s Grassbird Cape Plover Ringed x Turnstone Ruddy
Buzzard Forest Grebe Black-necked x Plover Three-banded x Turtle-dove Cape x
Buzzard Jackal x Grebe Great Crested x Plover White-fronted x Vulture Cape
Buzzard Steppe x Grebe Little x Pochard Southern Wagtail Cape x
Canary Brimstone Greenbul Sombre Prinia Karoo x Warbler Victorin’s
Canary Cape Greenshank Common x Quail Common Warbler Willow
Canary Forest Guineafowl Helmeted x Rail African x Waxbill Common
Canary Whitethroated x Gull Grey-headed Raven White-necked x Waxbill Swee
Canary Black-headed x Gull Hartlaub’s x Reed-warbler African Weaver Cape x
Canary Yellow x Gull Kelp x Robin-chat Cape x Wheatear Capped x
Chat Familiar Hamerkop Rock-jumper Cape Whimbrel Common x
Cisticola Cloud Harrier Black x Rock-thrush Cape White-eye Cape x
Cisticola Grey-backed Harrier-hawk African Roller European Whydah Pin-tailed
Cisticola Levaillant’s x Heron Black-headed x Ruff x Woodpecker Cardinal
Cisticola Zitting Heron Goliath Rush-warbler Little x Woodpecker Ground
Coot Red-knobbed x Heron Greenbacked Sandpiper Common x Woodpecker Olive
Cormorant Bank Heron Grey x Sandpiper Curlew x
Cormorant Cape x Heron Purple Sandpiper Wood Total Seen 119
Cormorant Crowned x Heron Squacco Saw-wing Black
Cormorant Reed x Honeybird Brown-backed Scrub-robin Karoo x
Cormorant White-breasted x Honeyguide Greater Secretarybird
Coucal Burchell’s Honeyguide Lesser Seed-eater Streaky-headed
Crake Black x Hoopoe African Shelduck South African
Crane Blue x Ibis African Sacred x Shoveler Cape x
Crested-Flycatcher Blue-m Ibis Glossy x Siskin Cape
Crombec Long-billed Ibis Hadeda x Snake-Eagle Black-chested
Crow Cape Kestrel Lesser Snipe African
Crow Pied x Kestrel Rock x Sparrow Cape x
Cuckoo Black Kingfisher Brown-hooded Sparrow House
Cuckoo Diederik x Kingfisher Giant Sparrow S. Grey-headed x
Cuckoo Klaas’ Kingfisher Malachite Sparrowhawk Black
Cuckoo Red-chested Kingfisher Pied x Sparrowhawk Rufous-chested
Cuckooshrike Black Kite Black-shouldered x Spoonbil African x
Curlew Eurasian x Kite Yellow-billed x Spurfowl Cape x
Darter African x Knot Red Starling Common x
Dove Laughing x Lapwing Black-smith x Starling Pied x
Dove Namaqua x Lapwing Crowned Starling Red-winged
Dove Red-eyed x Lark Cape Clapper Stilt Black-winged x
Dove Rock Lark Cape Long-billed Stint Little x
Dove Tambourine Lark Largebilled x Stonechat African x
Drongo Fork-tailed Lark Redcapped Stork White
Duck African Black Lark Spike-heeled Sugarbird Cape
Duck Fulvous Longclaw Cape x Sunbird Amethyst
Duck Maccoa Mallard x Sunbird Malachite x
Duck White-backed Marsh-Harrier African x Sunbird Orange-breasted
Duck White-faced Martin Banded x Sunbird Souther Double-C x
Duck Yellow-billed x Martin Brown-throated x Swallow Barn x
Eagle Booted x Martin House Swallow Greater Striped
Eagle Martial Martin Rock x Swallow Pearl-breasted
Eagle Verreaux’s Masked-weaver Southern x Swallow White-throated x
Eagle-Owl Cape Moorhen Common x Swamphen African Purple x
Eagle-Owl Spotted x Mousebird Red-faced Swamp-warbler Lesser x
Egret Cattle Mousebird Speckled x Swift African Black
Egret Great Mousebird White-backed x Swift Alpine
Egret Little x Neddicky Swift Common
Falcon Lanner Night-Heron Black-crowned Swift Little x
Falcon Peregrine Nightjar Fiery-necked x Swift White-rumped
Fiscal Common x Olive-pigeon African Tchagra Southern
Fish-Eagle African Ostrich Common x Teal Hottentot
Teal Red-billed

On the social side, we were, as usual, well catered for, with everybody putting in their particular contributions.  It was a fun-filled outing and it provided an opportunity for getting to know more birds as well as each other!


Christmas Party


Please don’t forget to contact Craig at pcsholmes@telkomsa.net if you want to attend our year end function on 13 December.  It will be a bring-and-braai as well as our annual photographic competition (see previous notice)

Sundowners on the River Rat.

A calm morning (1)

The Stanford River

We have booked two sundowner trips on the River Rat at Stanford. Dates 23 and 24th January and we will set sail at 17h00. Ernie will be our Captain and is a very good birder himself so with our expertise and his, we are bound to have a good outing.

The cost is R135.00 per person – you will need to bring your own drinks and snacks and glasses.

If you would like to participate contact Craig on pcsholmes@telkomsa.net – first come first served – each cruise only takes 12 people.



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