Marine protected areas could be one of the best solutions that could save many animal species from going extinct. The latest study carried out by the French scientists from Montpellier has revealed the beneficial effects for endangered Cape penguin population in South Africa once marine protected area has been established.
The Cape penguin species, that is endemic to South Africa is listed as endangered, and the recent decline in population of 60 percent between the period from 2001 to 2009 has ringed alarm bells. This tremendous decline in population is mostly connected with the food shortages since penguins need to compete with fisheries for fish.
South Africa's government luckily realized the threat to penguins, and decided to close the fishing in January 2009 in a 20-km radius ocean area around the largest Cape penguin colony (on the island of St Croix, Algoa Bay). Did this work to make life easier for penguins?
Well the scientists came up with the following results: In 2008, before the marine protected area was established and was still open for fisheries, the St Croix penguins mainly fished (75% of dives) more than 20 km from their colony, covering up to 150 km in two days in their search for food. In 2009, only 3 months after the marine protected area was established and closed to fishing, 70% of dives were less than 20 km away, within the protected marine area. This means that the time spent on searching for food has decreased by 30%, which reduced daily energy expenditure of Cape penguins by 40%.
As you can see from these results it doesn't take much time for marine protected area to start showing positive indicators. Industrial fishing on large scale is not only harmful to penguins but to many other marine animals that depend on fish for their survival, and marine protected areas could stop decline in population of many marine species.
Marine protected areas are definitely one of the best ways to reduce threats to marine life.