By Alison Manka, School and SciQuarium Programs Manager
A few weeks ago, we welcomed, Pat, the newest African penguin chick to the Greensboro Science Center’s African penguin colony. This special girl spent her first months of life gulping down enormous quantities of fish, first from her parents, then from her keepers. In a mere three months, she grew from a scant 63 grams (about the weight of a C battery) to well over 2,600 grams (over five and a half pounds). This rapid growth in our penguin as well as wild penguin chicks is attributable to the steady and regular supply of fish. Unfortunately, not all wild penguin chicks are as lucky and satiated as Pat.
Many wild African penguin parents struggle to feed their chicks. African penguins feed mainly on small schooling fish such as sardines, anchovies, and herring. Adults will travel great distances in search of these schooling fish which follow nutrient rich offshore currents. These fish-rich currents are moving farther and farther off shore as water temperature increases. As a result, penguins are forced to travel longer and farther in search of fish running the gauntlet of oil spills, discarded fishing gear, and natural predators. When the penguins finally reach the fishing grounds, there are far fewer fish to be found. The fish penguins need to survive are being harvested for human consumption at an unsustainable rate.
This sounds like a problem too big and too distant for us living half a world away to do anything about. What can we do about fishing around Africa? As it turns out, there is something that each and every one of us can do, it doesn’t cost a dime and will help penguins as well as all other aquatic animals. All we need to do to help is make sure any seafood we consume, whether from a grocer or a restaurant, is being sustainably harvested. The Greensboro Science Center is proud to be a member of Seafood Watch, a sustainable seafood resource created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium that works with government agencies, scientists, and fisheries to recommend which seafood is a best choice, a good alternative, and which to avoid. They provide this information free of charge in a pocket sized Seafood Watch guide or the free app available for iOS and Android devices. Pocket guides are available for the Southeast Region, Sushi, and in Spanish at the Greensboro Science Center. Feel free to pick up a few extra to pass out to friends.
Selecting sustainably harvested seafood is a wonderful way to help aquatic animals including penguins in the long term, but want to do more? You can help by running, walking, or waddling with us in our annual Tuxedo Trot: Run for the Penguins. This 5K race and 1K Kids Fun Run, held on May 21st 2016, benefits SANCCOB, a wonderful non-profit in South Africa that rescues abandoned chicks, helps oiled birds, raises awareness, and works on conservation efforts. 100% of the race’s proceeds will go directly to SANCCOB. This year, with your help, we are striving to raise over $20,000 for SANCCOB to aid their efforts to save the endangered African penguin.
Please help all of Pat’s wild penguin cousins by choosing sustainably harvested seafood and joining us May 21st to run, walk, or waddle in the Greensboro Science Center’s Tuxedo Trot: Run for the Penguins to support SANCCOB. Sustainable seafood sustains penguins too!