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The tranquility of African penguins threatened by supplying boats at sea

Port Elizabeth (South Africa) (AFP) - Amid the din of engines, a tourist boat approaches an imposing vessel loaded with fuel to supply boats at sea, moored in Algoa Bay in South Africa.South, close to the world's largest colony of African penguins.

Halfway on the sea route between Europe and Asia, this bay, bathing in deep waters, was an obvious choice for the first offshore bunkering operation in South Africa.

Since 2016, it is mainly freighters that stop there for offshore refueling, which allows more cargo to be transported and costs to be avoided in ports, while saving time.

But conservationists, ecotourism operators and nature lovers are worried about the impact on this hotspot of marine biodiversity, which also attracts tourists.

Operations take place too close to penguin feeding and breeding grounds, they warn, disrupting the ecosystem and exposing marine animals to oil spills.

The bay's largest storage tanker can hold up to 100,000 tonnes of fuel, and twice, in 2017 and 2019, teams have had to intervene to rescue dozens of oil-covered penguins after minor leaks.

In the Eastern Cape Province, Algoa Bay is home to almost half of the world's population of African penguins, an endangered species.

But the site is also home to dolphins and whales and is on the route of an annual sardine migration, one of the most spectacular marine events.

"People were blown away by the number of animals we had in this bay," says Lloyd Edwards, who works in tourism.But today, he says, some whales "have moved away" because of the noise.

Posted Date: 2020-08-23

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