News / Science & Technology

Penguin Sanctuary Plan Would Double World's Protected Oceans

Penguins a Barometer for Ocean Healthi
June 06, 2014 8:34 PM
The world’s oceans are under assault. The increasing concentration of global carbon emissions is making waters warmer and more acidic, which is harming coral reefs, home to about one-third of everything that lives in the sea. One barometer of ocean health is the penguin, whose Southern Hemisphere range extends from the tropical Galapagos Islands near the equator to the ice shelf of Antarctica. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on their struggle for survival in the face of numerous threats.
Rosanne Skirble
About 75 percent of all penguins are threatened and a campaign to double the area of protected reserves is being considered by an international commission.

Penguins are aquatic birds. They do not fly. Instead, they soar through the ocean. Penguins are especially adapted to life in the water, and are affected by everything in it.

They suffer from pollution and overfishing, which limits their food source. They are in danger from shipping traffic and oil spills.
Penguin Sanctuary Plan Would Double World's Protected Oceans
Penguin Sanctuary Plan Would Double World's Protected Oceans i
|| 0:00:00

Sharp decline

Vanessa Strauss, who heads a high-tech tracking and monitoring program at the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds in Cape Town, South Africa, says accidents there have accelerated the birds' sharp decline.

“We know that some animals oiled at sea never make it to land," Strauss said. "So, it’s really difficult to quantify the impact of chronic oil pollution over the long term. We cannot only look at the number of birds affected by oil to quantify the impact, but we do know from research that many birds do die out at sea.”    
  • Chinstrap penguin prancing on Prasiola crispa, a terrestrial green algae. (Ron Naveen/ OCEANITES)
  • Adélie penguin wing spread. (Ron Naveen/ OCEANITES)
  • Nesting Adélie penguins, Admiralty Bay. (Ron Naveen/ OCEANITES)
  • Penguin swimming, Antarctica. (John B. Weller)
  • Gentoo penguin headshot. (Ron Naveen/ OCEANITES)
  • Close up of fish below the Ross Sea. (John B. Weller, Courtesy of The Pew Charitable Trusts)
  • Close-up of krill. (Photo credit: grandfathered)
  • Below the Ross Sea. (John B. Weller)
  • Avalanche in the Lemaire Channel. (Ron Naveen/ OCEANITES)
  • Pods of killer whales, sometimes 100 strong, patrol the ice edges. Three separate ecotypes live in the Ross Sea, each specializing in a different diet. (John B. Weller)

Climate change puts all penguin populations at risk, says Andrea Kavanagh, director of Global Penguin Conservation for the PEW Charitable Trusts.  

“Global warming is a problem because it shifts where their normal food supplies are, either farther away from them so they have to swim farther and farther away to get the food," Kavanagh said. "And when penguins are nesting and trying to protect their chicks, that’s especially a big problem for them, because the longer they have to leave their chicks, the more open to starvation and predation their chicks are."    

Marine reserves

Two-thirds of the global penguin population is endangered, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Eight of 18 species worldwide live in Antarctica. The continent, one of the last wild frontiers, is home to 10,000 species, including seabirds, seals and whales.

Kavanagh says PEW and partner groups are backing a plan to create two large marine reserves, which would set aside nearly 3 million square kilometers (1.16 million miles)  in the Ross Sea and East Antarctica, more than a third of which would be a strict no-fishing area.

Marine reserves would help penguins by moving fisheries away from where the penguins forage for food, Kavanagh said. "And so it would give them a little bit more security when it comes to their food source in the face of a changing climate. The other thing that it would do is that it would take a big fishery that is happening, the krill fishery, and move that farther away from their foraging grounds.”  

Negotiating fate of reserves

The tiny, shrimp-like krill are a staple of the penguin diet. But they are being harvested for fish feed and vitamin supplements.

A commission created under the Antarctic Treaty, which governs the continent, is currently negotiating the fate of the reserves.

The 24-member states and European Union countries must come to a consensus. Kavanagh says every nation is on board except Russia, which has been reluctant to give up fishing in the proposed area.

“The last couple of years, we have been working with our Russian colleagues and with all of the other member governments to try to understand their problems and see if we can work through them so that this year, this October, we can have these marine reserves firmly established,” Kavanagh said.

The meeting will be held in Tasmania, where the commission is based. The reserves would double the area of ocean worldwide that is fully protected.

You May Like

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Through Sports, Austria Tries to Give Migrants Traction

With 85,000 people expected to claim asylum in Austria this year, its government has made integration through joint physical activities a key objective More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs