Seabird Islands of the Western Cape:
Critical breeding grounds for African Penguins, Cape Gannets, gulls, cormorants and tern species, the guano islands that lie off the coastline of the Western Cape of South Africa protect seabirds from disturbance and predation from land-based predators. Sadly, the populations of many of these seabirds are in rapid decline due to a variety of human induced pressures and these islands, are in many cases, the last breeding strongholds for our endemic seabirds.
The islands were first known to the western world over 500 years ago when Bartholemeu Diaz rounded our shores in 1487. Since that time, they became regular stopovers for ships companies that plundered them for the seals and seabirds, for their meat and eggs. Since that time, the seabirds have faced other threats that included the scrapping of the islands of the meter high piles of guano so that it could be turned into agricultural fertilizer. With South Africa also lying on one of the world’s major shipping lanes, the seabirds are also at high risk to oil pollution. In June 2000, the bulk oil carrier MV Treasure ran aground between Robben and Dassen Islands. 20 000 African Penguins were oiled in this disaster and of these between 6000 and 6500 died.
Luckily today, any form of disturbance is illegal and access to the islands is strictly controlled. However, the threats still continue for the seabirds with the overharvesting of their main food source by fishing fleets. With the acknowledgement of the important role that the islands play in the protection of our dwindling seabird species, conservation authorities are working hard to ensure their protection through trying to include them in marine protected areas and trialing fishing exclusion zones around the main seabird feeding grounds. Public and industry support is also vital to ensuring that these amazing wild places continue their important role in biodiversity and seabird conservation.
Support Seabird Conservation by entering the Celebrate Our Oceans Photographic Competition:
When it comes to making an impact, beautiful imagery surpasses almost all other media. This is why the Oceans of Life Photographic Competition 2015 is the centerpiece of BirdLife South Africa’s Oceans of Life events. BirdLife South Africa is inviting photographers from around the globe to enter this competition by sending in photographs that show how remarkable, diverse and inspiring the oceans are. By submitting your images to this photographic competition, you are personally helping BirdLife South in their mission to protect marine environments. For further information visit www.oceansoflife.co.za.