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The EMS Foundation appreciates the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) work and the opportunity to comment on this draft BMP, which highlights in detail the threats and causes of the decline of the African penguin, a crucial predator and indicator of environmental pollution.

The human-related threats include climate change (extreme weather) overfishing, bunkering, gas explorations, mining and finfish farming. We are pleased to see that this document highlights the fact that the decline of the penguin is linked to the aforementioned legally permitted activities. We urge the South African government to take all the necessary steps to cease the same.

We are concerned that, despite all the available data that has been assimilated by scientific research, no effective immediate action or mitigation processes have been prioritised in this document instead, further research, and investigations have been proposed.

We support further research processes but we believe, based on the enormous body of evidence already available, that further delays in mitigating a solution might be irreversibly detrimental to the species. Scientists focusing their research on this penguin species are confident that there is enough information available to determine the causes of the decline of the population in South Africa.

In addition, the research has indicated that penguins who undergo rehabilitation have a very low reproductive rate so, although we appreciate the care for individual animals that are rescued, rehabilitated and released, increasing rehabilitation capacity will not improve the conservation of the species. Scientists have indicated that this species of penguin could be functionally extinct by 2035.

We urge the minister and the department to prioritise action. In particular to:

  1. Finalize the expansion of mpas and no-take zones around penguin colonies;
  2. Address any influence of the fishing industry on decision-making processes;
  3. Halt the permitting of harmful activities;
  4. Improve accountability and implement the principles of ‘polluter pays’ in terms of NEMA;
  5. Include all necessary provisions and to identify the links to other legislation – including the forthcoming NEMLA – to empower DFFE to halt activities that have already been identified as causing the loss of individual penguins and the ecosystem they rely on in the African Penguin Management Plan;
  6. Impose a moratorium on the fishing of so-called ‘small pelagic’ species via purse seine net and of bottom-trawling, at least in/near areas where the penguin is present.

The full submission is available for your convenience.

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