By Paul Homewood
Apparently the Royal Navy has nothing better to do!
The Royal Navy has made a "hazardous" trip to "one of the most remote places on earth" to help scientists study shrinking penguin populations.
Research ship HMS Protector is studying colonies of the birds in the South Sandwich Islands – so off the beaten track even the Royal Navy only calls in once a decade.
Described by the Royal Navy as “one of the most remote places on earth,” the chain of islands lie more than 1,300 miles east of the Falklands and are home to around three million of the flightless birds.
By landing on the uninhabited islands, recording the penguins and using drones, scientists hope for a better understanding of the impact of climate change and other environmental factors on the colonies.
Captain Michael Wood, HMS Protector’s Commanding Officer, said: “Visits by ships to these territories are exceptionally infrequent and hazardous".
The islands, which are sovereign UK Overseas Territories, are thought to be home to 1.3 million breeding pairs of chinstrap penguins, nearly half the world’s population.
They live alongside around 95,000 breeding pairs of macaroni penguins and several thousand pairs of gentoo penguins.
Despite being at the northern edge of their breeding range, an unexpectedly large population of Adélie penguins (about 125,000 pairs) also live there.
The populations have fluctuated in recent decades.
Resurgent whale and fur seal numbers eating the krill in the ocean upon which many penguins rely were initially thought to be the cause, following bans on whaling and overfishing.
However, more recent scientific thinking puts the shrinking numbers down to climate change, melting sea ice and rising temperatures.
Dr Tom Hart, of the Department of Zoology at Oxford University, said: “The more data we get on these islands, the more we are able to disentangle the effects of climate change versus eruptions.
In reality, Chinstrap Penguins are thriving around Antarctica, where there are estimated to be 12 to 13 million of the little blighters. On the IUCN red list, they are classified as Least Concern.
According to National Geographic, long term population trends are stable, with a mid 20thC rise due to the prior rise in seal and whale hunting, and a slight drop since as these have ended:
However, krill is the critical element in the life cycles of all penguins. Although in theory fishing of krill is supposed to be done sustainably, there are concerns that industrial fishing of krill is now a serious threat:
Industrial fishing for krill in the pristine waters around Antarctica is threatening the future of one of the world’s last great wildernesses, according to a new report.
The study by Greenpeace analysed the movements of krill fishing vessels in the region and found they were increasingly operating “in the immediate vicinity of penguin colonies and whale feeding grounds”.
It also highlights incidents of fishing boats being involved in groundings, oil spills and accidents, which it said posed a serious threat to the Antarctic ecosystem.
The report, published on Tuesday, comes amid growing concern about the impact of fishing and climate change on the Antarctic. A global campaign has been launched to create a network of ocean sanctuaries to protect the seas in the region and Greenpeace is calling for an immediate halt to fishing in areas being considered for sanctuary status…
There is a growing global demand for krill-based health products which are claimed to help with a range of ailments from heart disease to high blood pressure, strokes and depression.
A recent analysis of the global krill industry predicted it was on course to grow 12% a year over the next three years.
Krill populations have declined by 80% since the 1970s. Global warming has been blamed partly because the ice that is home to the algae and plankton on which krill feed is retreating.
However, campaigners say recent developments in fishing technology are exacerbating the problem.
Naturally, of course, Greenpeace/Guardian also blame “climate change” for reducing krill populations, because of “retreating sea ice”. Despite the fact that sea ice extent around Antarctica has remained stable since the 1980s:
Instead of trying to count millions of penguins, maybe the Royal Navy should be stopping illegal fishing.
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December 27, 2021 at 05:00AM