This page was updated on Sept. 28, 2016.
2016 is shaping up to be a big year for politics around the globe. More than 40 elections are taking place across Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas during the next 12 months. And now, Pew’s global penguin conservation campaign is going where no election has gone before: to the icy continent of Antarctica.
Six species of penguin call Antarctic and sub-Antarctic waters home, and an additional 12 reside throughout the rest of the Southern Hemisphere, each with a powerful platform for being the candidate of choice. Whether they want to increase their food supply, combat melting sea ice, or minimize human impacts on their habitats, each has a compelling reason to earn your vote.
No matter which penguin is your favorite, each plays a valuable role in the Southern Ocean ecosystem. As the saying goes, vote early and vote often.
With more than 2.37 million breeding pairs, my species is one of the most abundant on Antarctica, so it could truly be said that I speak for the penguins. But Adélie populations near the Antarctic Peninsula have declined by 50 percent in the past 30 years, largely due to climate change. The fact that humans fish for our favorite food, Antarctic krill, right next to our nesting area also stresses us out. If elected, I’ll help us bounce back by ensuring that the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) renews the conservation measure that helps move krill fishing farther away from our colonies.
Antarctica needs an emperor who cares! According to a study in Nature Climate Change, by the end of this century the global population of my species will decline by 19 to 33 percent. If elected, I will do everything I can to ensure that large-scale, fully protected marine reserves—especially in the Ross Sea—will be created, so that ecosystems can build resilience to climate change and emperor penguins are able to nest, breed, and find food in peace.
Gentoo penguins are very popular—especially those that live on the Antarctic Peninsula. Every year, more and more humans come to visit Antarctica, so it’s vital that tourism be managed appropriately so that gentoo homes are free from damaging effects. I will establish a gentoo tourist ambassador program and also ask CCAMLR to designate new marine reserves around the Antarctic Peninsula and Weddell Sea. Then we can continue to swim and catch dinner safely!
My platform is simple: Krill for all! In fact, 99 percent of the chinstrap’s diet is Antarctic krill. Unfortunately, humans from the north keep coming to the Southern Ocean to fish for krill for supplements and animal feed. I will make sure that CCAMLR stays true to its conservation mandate with strong krill fishery management and that krill harvesters share their data and implement 100 percent observer coverage on vessels.
It’s all in the name. Why wouldn’t you vote for the king penguin? I may not reside on the actual continent of Antarctica, but I care about the Southern Ocean. When I’m elected, I will make sure that all 24 CCAMLR member countries plus the European Union put aside their differences and finally implement a network of marine reserves to protect not just Antarctica but also the Southern Ocean as a place of peace and science.
Let’s be real. I have the best head of feathers of all penguins, but I’m not just about looks. There are 6.3 million breeding pairs of macaroni penguins in sub-Antarctic waters for me to protect. And we eat—a lot. In fact, macaroni penguins consume 4 million tons of krill every year. Our food supply isn’t the only thing we care about, though. Cats, rabbits, and rats have been introduced to parts of our home, which has made it hard for us to breed and nest. I will do my best to appropriately manage the impact of humans and invasive species in our foraging and nesting areas.
Hailing from New Zealand’s South Island and Subantarctic Islands, I represent the voice of the penguin species that live outside Antarctica. In addition to the major threats the Antarctic penguins face—like climate change, fishers taking our food, and tourism—we non-Antarctic or sub-Antarctic penguins have to share our homes with humans. We may experience a wide range of other issues, including habitat loss due to development, competing with or being eaten by invasive species, toxins like oil and other pollutants, unregulated tourism, and sometimes even being caught in fishing nets. These threats are so numerous that my species is considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. A vote for me is a vote for the underdog.