The ongoing decline in yellow-eyed penguin nests on mainland New Zealand is cause for alarm and demands unequivocal action from the government and the fishing industry, says Forest & Bird.
“Nesting numbers at some sites are down by over half this year. The overall nest count is down 12 percent from last year, which follows disastrous declines in the previous two breeding seasons,” says Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague.
Forest & Bird Te Rere reserve caretaker Fergus Sutherland says, “We are especially concerned about the nesting statistics in and around the Foveaux Strait."
“Predators are well controlled at the Forest & Bird reserve at Te Rere in the Catlins, and the Yellow Eyed Penguin Trust has been doing good work at other sites as well. Yet nesting numbers continue to fall. With rat and stoat issues ruled out, the problem must be occurring at sea.”
“There are no marine reserves off the South Otago coast or in Foveaux Strait. The Ministers of Fishing and Conservation must rectify this urgent issue,” says Mr Hague.
“The Ministers are currently considering the proposal from the South-East Marine Protection Forum. The Forum failed to recommend any reserves off the South Otago coast, where these penguins spend much of their time foraging. This must be remedied."
“At the same time, a recovery and threat management plan for the penguins is being drafted, and our strong hope is that its authors will have the courage to address all the threats to the penguins, including those posed by fishing, land use, and climate change.
“Last year, fishers went some way towards recognising their ability to help this species, and agreed to keep set nets away from the important breeding ground of Whenua Hou (Codfish Island) in Foveaux Strait.
“Management and recovery plans must back up this important step, and also recognise the direct impact of the fishing industry that operates in yellow-eyed penguin territory,” says Mr Hague.
Photos and footage of yellow-eyed penguins can be found here. Please use appropriate credits.