Target: Maree Baker-Galloway, Chair of the South-East Marine Protection Forum
Goal: Prevent the extinction of the yellow-eyed penguin by protecting its food supply.
Yellow-eyed Penguins, shy and reclusive natives of New Zealand, are struggling on the brink of extinction. The New York Times reports that the yellow-eyed penguin population has dwindled to around 2,000 individuals, which is three times less than a decade ago, and that only 18 out of 100 penguin chicks survive passed the first year at sea. We are in danger of losing this rarest of penguin species forever.
Threats to the yellow-eyed penguin are myriad. In the 1980’s, the New York Times reported that the penguins suffered mainly from habitat encroachment as farmers cleared land to support livestock. While conservation efforts gave the endangered animals a refuge, fate dealt the yellow-eyed penguin a cruel blow as fires destroyed their newly protected habitats. Now however, the most pressing threat to the penguin may be human pressures on their food supply. According to the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust’s field manager, David McFarlane, the low fish population are forcing the penguins to compete with barracuda and sharks for their food. Last year alone veterinarians sutured 50 yellow-eyed penguins wounded by large predatory fish.
Despite the grave situation of New Zealand’s rare and threatened penguin populations, fishery advocates appear unmoved. Nelson Cross, a member of a fisheries regulatory organization and representative for recreational fishermen, told the New York Times that there was “no evidence that recreational fishing impacts in any way on the penguins.” He also suggested that conservationists were to blame for dwindling penguin populations, saying that “humans ignore the fact that penguins are wild animals and not a domestic variety accustomed to constant harassment and handling in the name of research.”
Nelson Cross and his ilk cannot be allowed to succeed. Insist that New Zealand protect the yellow-eyed penguin’s food supply and not shift blame onto those trying to help the endangered species.
Dear Chair Baker-Galloway,
Yellow-eyed penguins are on the brink of extinction. Their population has reportedly dwindled to around 2, 000 individuals, and only 18 percent of their chicks are said to survive the first year at sea. The main threats to the yellow-eyed penguin come not from the land but the sea where the birds are forced to compete with large predatory fish for dwindling food resources. The New York Times reports that last year alone “veterinarians had to suture about 50 yellow-eyed penguins that were wounded in barracuda or shark attacks.”
It is time to take action in response to that threat. Conservationists have long called on regulatory bodies to restrict fishing in aid of the penguins, but nothing has been done. The South-East Marine Protection Forum’s Fergus Sutherland told the New York Times that inaction results from an imbalance of power.
Stop listening to fisheries advocates who reject the idea that food pressures have any effect on penguin populations and insinuate that the scientists and conservationists who protect the yellow-eyed penguin are responsible for the decline of the species. Please act now to place caps on fishing catches to ensure food security for yellow-eyed penguins.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Sharon Chester