Ushuaia, Argentina – Scientists surveying chinstrap penguin colonies in the Antarctic have found drastic reductions in many colonies, with some declining by as much as 77% since they were last surveyed almost 50 years ago.
independent researchers, on a Greenpeace expedition to the region, found that
every single colony surveyed on Elephant Island, an important habitat northeast
of the Antarctic Peninsula, had declined. The number of chinstrap penguins on
Elephant Island has dropped almost 60% since the last survey in 1971, with a
total count of only 52,786 breeding pairs of chinstrap penguins, plummeting
from previous survey estimates of around 122,550 pairs.
this week have been installing ‘disappearing’ penguin ice sculptures in
capitals around the world, from Seoul to London, Buenos Aires to Cape Town, to
demand urgent action to protect ocean wildlife with a Global Ocean Treaty. [See images
Dr Heather J. Lynch, Associate Professor of Ecology & Evolution at Stony Brook University, one of the expedition’s leads, said: “Such significant declines suggest that the Southern Ocean’s ecosystem is fundamentally changed from 50 years ago, and that the impacts of this are rippling up the food web to species like chinstrap penguins. While several factors may have a role to play, all the evidence we have points to climate change as being responsible for the changes we are seeing.”
Frida Bengtsson of Greenpeace’s Protect the Oceans campaign, said: “ A world with fewer penguins is a less happy place. As wildlife struggles, we urgently need sanctuaries free from harmful human activity not only in the Antarctic, but across the world’s oceans, so marine life like penguins have the space to recover from human activity and adapt to our rapidly changing climate. To do that, it’s imperative that governments agree on a Global Ocean Treaty this year.”
of scientists, from Stony Brook and Northeastern University, has also been
surveying a series of large but relatively unknown chinstrap penguin colonies
on Low Island, using manual and drone surveying techniques. This will be the
first time the island, thought to have around 100,000 breeding pairs of
chinstrap penguins, has been properly surveyed from land, with results to
and video can be accessed here
Interviews with scientists
and campaigners are available upon request.
Disappearing penguin ice sculptures appeared in 15 countries around the world, including: Buenos Aires, Cape Town, London, Seoul and Tel Aviv. Images are available here
 Greenpeace’s ships the Esperanza and Arctic Sunrise are in the Antarctic for the conclusion of Greenpeace’s Pole to Pole expedition. See here for a map of the ‘Pole to Pole’ route.
expedition is documenting threats to the world’s oceans as part of Greenpeace’s
campaign for a Global
Ocean Treaty, which
could lay the groundwork for a network of ocean sanctuaries covering 30% of the
world’s oceans by 2030.
Greenpeace has been campaigning for the establishment of three Antarctic
sanctuary proposals, which after being rejected in 2019, are due to be
discussed again at this year’s Antarctic Ocean Commission (CCAMLR) meeting in
October. These sanctuaries would offer protection for many of the colonies
Heather J. Lynch is IACS Endowed Chair of Ecology & Evolution at Stony
Frida Bengtsson is a senior ocean campaigner at Greenpeace Nordic
James Hanson – Press Officer, Greenpeace UK – [email protected], 07801 212 994
Greenpeace International Press Desk, +31 (0)20 718 2470 (available 24 hours), [email protected]