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World Penguin Day: Species facing extinction as fishing fleets harvest their prey for livestock feed

'The decline of species is reaching a critical point and we cannot ignore the role of unsustainable livestock production'

Ian Johnston
Environment Correspondent
Wednesday 26 April 2017 08:40 BST
The penguin can be spotted by the spot of pink flesh on its face
The penguin can be spotted by the spot of pink flesh on its face (Getty)

Penguins and other species are facing extinction as the fish they feed on are harvested to make fishmeal to feed farmed salmon, chickens, pigs and other human livestock, environmentalists have warned.

The South African penguin population has fallen by 70 per cent since 2004 as fishing fleets have targeted sardines, anchovies and other marine animals used to make feed.

A coalition of environmental groups including WWF, Bird Life Europe and Compassion in World Farming announced on World Penguin Day that they would hold an ‘Extinction and Livestock’ conference in London in October to look for the solutions “we so desperately need”.

​Glyn Davies, WWF’s executive director of global programmes, said: “The decline of species is reaching a critical point and we cannot ignore the role of unsustainable livestock production.

“If nature is to recover, we need to work together and encourage sustainable farming systems which will limit pollution, reduce habitat loss and restore species numbers.”

And Philip Lymbery, Compassion in World Farming’s chief executive and author of the book Dead Zone: Where the Wild Things Were, added: “We must stop this ruthless destruction before it is too late.

“The Extinction and Livestock Conference will bring together people, organisations and businesses from all over the world to play their part in shaping the solutions that we so desperately need.”

The speakers at the conference on 5 and 6 October will include environmentalist Jonathan Porritt, anthropologist Jane Goodall and Dr Hilal Elver, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the right to food.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, the African penguin, Spheniscus demersus, the Galapagos penguin, Spheniscus mendiculus, and yellow-eyed penguin, Megadyptes antipodes, are among those classed as are endangered.

A total of 10 out of 18 species are listed as either endangered or vulnerable on the Red List.

BirdLife International is sharing stories about penguins from around the world in an effort to promote their conservation.

“Beautiful. Inspiring. Under threat. Penguins are among the world’s most charming and recognisable birds, but from south pole to equator, a web of threats is seeing them slide ever-closer towards extinction,” it says on its website.

“Some birds just grab the public’s attention. Puffins, parrots, albatrosses and owls; they inspire stories and songs, and we decorate our homes with their images.

“But one group of birds is singled out for more appreciation by the human race than any other: the penguins.

“There are is a lot to love about penguins. They’re cute, and while they’re comical on land, they are remarkable swimmers capable of diving great depths and migrating thousands of kilometres each year. The Antarctic species endure some of the most extreme conditions on Earth to raise their young, a feat deemed worthy of a Morgan Freeman voiceover.

“They occupy a host of habitats, from forests in New Zealand to the volcanic islands of the Galapagos, and from the beaches of southern Africa to far-flung Subantarctic Islands. Like so many well-loved species though, human appreciation alone is not enough to stop this group of birds from slipping towards extinction.”

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