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African Penguin - how much fish do they eat per year?

The ADU - Animal Demography Unit - presented results of a research project sponsored by the Responsible Fisheries Alliance - RFA, a partnership between WWF South Africa, and four major fishing industry players, namely I&J, Oceana, Sea Harvest and Viking: "This is the first alliance of its kind in the history of South African marine conservation. The Alliance is a bid to achieve the common goal of ensuring the implementation of an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries - EAF management in South Africa's fisheries.

The objective of our research was to provide an estimate of the amount of fish removed from the oceans each year by African Penguins - Spheniscus demersus. They used doubly labelled water to estimate the energy consumption, and we used GPS data loggers to tell us how much time the penguins were spending on land and how much time at sea. After lots of difficult fieldwork, laboratory analyses, and calculations, we have an answer. Each adult penguin consumes an estimated 79 kg of anchovy during the breeding season. In addition, it takes 23 kg of anchovy to produce a 3 kg chick. During the remainder of the year we estimate that each adult penguin consumes another 184 kg of anchovies. So in a year, for a pair of adults to breed successfully and produce two chicks, and if they eat only anchovy, our estimate of the total fish requirement is 570 kg. This quantification of the energy needs of penguins provides a valuable piece of new information in the conservation database.

Penguins are ambassadors for the ocean. If we can take care of the penguins we will also help lots of less charismatic components of the ocean to survive.


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