African penguin: South African conservationists take legal action to save endangered species

Every year there are fewer African penguins and soon there may be none at all. Scientists say that the species is declining by around 8% every year.

As the ocean swells around the rocky shore of South Africa's Betty's Bay, penguins hop along the waterline, calling to one another in short raspy barks.

They are endearingly comical as they totter about but Alistair McInnes looks worried.

“This one near the water is quite skinny. You can see it hasn’t got much fat on it.”

Dr McInnes, a seabird conservationist for BirdLife South Africa, is part of the team monitoring the country’s dwindling penguin colonies.

The African penguin – which is native to South Africa and Namibia - has lost 99% of its population over the last century.

“If the current rates of decline persist into the near future we could see the extinction of the species within our lifetime by 2035, so the situation is extremely urgent,” Dr McInnes warns.

This is why BirdLife South Africa and the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob) are taking legal action against the government in the first case of its kind in South Africa.

Ministers have failed to adequately protect the endangered species, they argue.

“We cannot let a species go extinct on our watch,” says Kate Handley from the Biodiversity Law Centre, which represents the groups. She adds that the government is constitutionally obliged to prevent such a scenario.

It is estimated that there are now just 8,750 breeding pairs left in the country.

The penguins draw tourists from all over the world who come to see the short, stocky birds with the distinctive black stripe running down the side of their bodies.

They seem unfazed by the people taking their pictures but, as they preen in the sunshine or watch over their eggs, they face a precarious existence.

They are vulnerable to natural predators - seals and certain types of gull.

But the real enemies are human beings.

The now-discontinued practice of harvesting guano (accumulated bird droppings into which penguins would dig their burrows) damaged their habitat.

Climate change is exacerbating the problem - storms and flooding endanger their colonies and it is becoming harder for the birds to access food as ocean currents and temperatures shift.

And the sardines and anchovies on which the penguins depend are also a valuable commodity for the commercial fishing industry.

The South African government has tried to restrict the activities of so-called purse seine fishing vessels, which use large nets to catch great shoals of fish.

It is a volatile issue here.

Over the last 15 years there have been experimental closures of fishing grounds, protracted negotiations between the fishing industry and conservationists and input from an independent panel of international experts.

But penguin numbers are still declining.

BirdLife South Africa and Sanccob argue that current closures – under which fishing is prohibited around some colonies – are neither extensive enough nor in the right locations to fully protect the penguin population.

Their lawyers are demanding the immediate implementation of “biologically meaningful” closures.

But at the small harbours along the coast, as men unload their catch before heading back out to sea, there is concern and anger.

People here reject – fiercely - the accusation that they are to blame.

“We’re a fraction of the problem,” says Shamera Daniels, deputy chair of the South African Pelagic Fishing Industry Association, which represents many of those fishermen.

“There’s predation - seals, sharks. We’ve got oil and gas exploration, noise pollution.”

The current restrictions, she adds, have already cost the industry millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs. Further closures would, she warns, inflict more pain on an industry upon which many here rely.

A potentially painful and lengthy legal process lies ahead.

Conservation lawyer Ms Handley acknowledges that the decision to go to court was not taken lightly but that time is running out.

“Every incremental step towards trying to save the African penguin is something that we must undertake no matter how slim the chances may seem of actually getting this court hearing in time to actually have a biologically meaningful benefit for penguins,” she says.

It is not yet clear when a first hearing might be scheduled. The South African government will not yet comment publicly about the case.

But it may, some fear, already be too late for Africa’s dying breed.

Is Africa Splitting in Two? Really? Here's the Scoop

The Great Rift Valley offers both insights and intrigue in the world of plate tectonics. Martin Harvey / Getty Images

In the heart of East Africa, a seismic event is unfolding that could forever alter the continent's geographical landscape. The notion of Africa splitting has the attention scientists and geologists worldwide, as the Great Rift Valley stretches and tears at the Earth's crust.

This dramatic phenomenon is not the plot of a science fiction novel but a real and ongoing process that may lead to the birth of a new ocean, reshaping Africa's boundaries over millions of years.

The Great Rift Valley

The Great Rift Valley, which stretches from the Afar region down to Mozambique, offers breathtaking landscapes and is crucial for understanding the forces shaping our planet.

At the heart of this vast depression lies the East African Rift System (EARS), a zone where the African continent is slowly being torn apart. This site has attracted attention because a large crack recently made a sudden appearance in southwestern Kenya.

Understanding Plate Tectonics

Plate tectonics, the theory that explains the movement of the Earth's lithosphere, is central to understanding the division of the African continent.

The East African Rift System is a prime example of divergent tectonic plates pulling away from each other, with the African plate now appearing to be two separate entities — the Somalian tectonic plate and the larger Nubian tectonic plate — moving in opposite directions.

This tectonic activity not only contributes to the possible formation of Earth's sixth ocean but also reshapes the geography of East Africa, echoing the processes that once separated the vast protocontinent, Pangea, to form the Atlantic Ocean.

If the Nubian and Somali plates continue to drift, countries like Uganda and Zambia may have their own coastlines in the future.

Evidence of the Split

Recent geological surveys and satellite imagery have provided compelling evidence of the African continent's slow but steady split. These observations confirm the active splitting of the continent, as the East African Rift gradually widens.

It's important to note that while this discovery is exciting, the rifting process will take tens of millions of years to completely split. To put it into perspective, currently, the plates are diverging at an average rate of 0.2 inches (7 millimeters) per year.

While the rift is currently above sea level, over time, it will widen and the crust will thin and sink. Eventually, a small seaway will begin to invade the rift zone, much like the Red Sea, transforming the geography of the region and creating its own separate small continent.

What a Split Continent Means for Africa

The potential split of the African continent carries significant implications for its future. As the East African Rift Valley continues to expand, it could lead to the creation of an ocean basin, fundamentally altering the region's environment and climate.

This transformation could affect biodiversity, water resources and agricultural practices, posing both challenges and opportunities for the inhabitants of East Africa.

Moreover, the gradual separation might influence the continent's geopolitical landscape, as new maritime routes emerge and nations reassess their territorial boundaries. It may even create new opportunities for trade and communication.

Comparing Africa's Rift With Other Geological Phenomena

While this geological phenomenon may seem revolutionary to some, it's actually quite common. If you look at a map, you'll quickly see how Africa and South America appear to fit perfectly together. This is because they were once a landmass. Over time, the land was split by the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

What Is Causing the Somali and Nubian Plates To Split?

While experts have known that Africa is splitting in two for a while, pinpointing the exact cause has been a struggle.

A wide zone of seismic activity and evidence now suggests the rift is caused by a superplume upwelling along the eastern edge of Africa. Ultimately, the sudden appearance of the crack may be due to heavy rainfall in the area.



OceanHub Africa Launches Fifth Acceleration Program for Ocean-Minded Start-ups in Africa

OceanHub Africa, Africa’s leading enabler of ocean-impact entrepreneurship, has announced the launch of its fifth acceleration program.

The Pan-African accelerator is seeking startups in Africa, who have a positive direct or indirect impact on the ocean to apply for their 8-month acceleration program.

OceanHub Africa has been successful in supporting its portfolio of 32 start-ups to raise $10 million USD since 2020 and expand to other countries, growing economic, social, and environmental impact.

This year’s acceleration program is set to kick off in July and will include an in-person bootcamp in Cape Town.

The program will offer training on investment readiness, access-to-market, pitching and ocean-impact measurement and management. Selected entrepreneurs will also receive tailored advice from key mentors and industry experts up until their graduation, coinciding with Ocean Innovation Africa, the accelerator’s international Summit dedicated to fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in the African Ocean Space, at the end of February 2025.

Eligible start-ups must demonstrate a positive impact on ocean sustainability, operate within Africa, be a for-profit entity, have a scalable service or product available on the market, and be innovative and/or have a disruptive business model.

Applications for the fifth cohort of OceanHub Africa’s acceleration program close on 05 May 2024.


The Ocean Forecast System (OFS)

The Ocean Forecasting System (OFS) was initially developed by the First Institute of Oceanography (FIO) in 2010 to predict extreme weather, monitor ocean condition and safeguard social development.

The OFS consists of a wave-tide-circulation coupled model system, a real-time marine monitoring system, operational application and service, and the early warning of marine hazards and service. Coupled with Marine Science and Numerical Modeling Laboratory (MASNUM) wave model, MOM5 ocean general circulation model and SIS sea ice model, OFS applies the non-breaking wave-induced vertical mixing (Bv) theory established by Professor Fangli Qiao, with a horizontal resolution of 0.1°×0.1° and 54 layers in the vertical, in which eight main tidal potentials are simulated. It can provide 5-day forecast products of surface wave height, wave period, sea level, three-dimensional ocean current, sea temperature and salinity, etc. The general workflow of OFS is shown in Figure 1. The data input comes from two sources, including observation data and model data, both of which have been subject to validation. The analysis product is generated through Ensemble Adjustment Kalman filter assimilation, while the forecast product is generated through global high-resolution wave-tide-circulation coupled model and global high-resolution wave model with input from model database. OFS is forced by NCEP GFS operational atmosphere forcing field.

Overall, long-term validations have indicated that OFS can provide high-quality operational forecasting results, which are publicly accessible via

Figure showing workflow of OFS

Will Earth Get A New Ocean? Massive Faultline In Africa Sparks Speculation

The movement of tectonic plates is a fundamental geological process that has shaped the Earth's surface for over millions of years. These massive, rigid slabs of rock, which make up the Earth's lithosphere, are in constant motion, driven by the forces generated deep within the planet. But scientists have discovered a colossal fissure tearing through the southeastern part of Africa that is splitting the continent into two and could also pave way for the Earth's sixth ocean to emerge.

The planet currently has five distinct oceans - Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Antarctic and Arctic. A sixth ocean, if formed, could lead to massive changes in the planet's geography.

Known as the East African Rift System (EARS), it was first discovered in 2005, but believed to have initiated around 22 million years ago, according to

However, a significant surge of activity over the past few decades has spurred a renewed scientific interest in the faultline.

The East African Rift is a result of two tectonic plates - the Somali plate in the east and Nubian plate in the west. These two tectonic plates have been drifting apart, causing the fissure to deepen.

Jerusalem Post said a similar phenomenon was observed millions of years ago when South America and Africa were divided into different continents.

A peer-reviewed study detailing the split was published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. It said that the plates separate a few millimetres per year.

Interesting points have emerged from the deepening fissure. Experts say that countries currently landlocked in Africa, such as Ethiopia and Uganda, will see the introduction of a coastline.

"The Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea will flood in over the Afar region and into the East African Rift Valley and become a new ocean, and that part of East Africa will become its own separate small continent," Ken Macdonald, a marine geophysicist and a professor emeritus at the University of California, told Mashable.

However, researchers said that the continent will not completely split for another 5 to 10 million years.




Four deep sea fishing vessels secure licence to operate in Indian Ocean

Four foreign deep sea fishing vessels have been granted a license to use the Tanzanian flag to conduct deep water fishing within the Indian Ocean.

The Director of Research, Training and Extension Department in the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Prof Mohammed Sheikh said in Dar es Salaam yesterday that each licence costs about 70,000 US dollars and may be renewable each year depending on the performance.

“The initiative looks to increase fish catch for improving the average of fish uptake for Tanzanians to meet international standards, promote blue economy, create jobs and transfer marine skills to local populations,” he said during handover of fish Bycatch by a Spanish based company.

He was speaking during the handover of 100 tonnes of fish Bycatch to the government from Pacific star, a Spain based fishing company that is operating in using Tanzanian flag and has a subsidiary office in Zanzibar.

“Last week we granted a licence to four fishing vessels to use our flag and conduct deep sea fishing in the Indian Ocean. The licences also requires that such companies sell locally part of their fishing including they Bycatch which is set to minimise gap of fish intake in the country and promote trade,” he said.

Prof Sheikh added that the license has been granted after Pacific star (locally registered as Pemba Tuna) recorded success in fishing nearly 100 tonnes of Bycatch of other fish species and was ready to sell other 300 tonnes of tuner fish in the local market where local traders my sell them to Tanzanians and outside.

“An individual Tanzanian is estimated to consume an estimated 8.5 kilogrammes of fish a year, against 20 kilogrammes recommended internationally.

The incoming of licensed fishing vessels would increase the number of fish, narrow such a gap and hence, promote economic development and food security,” Prof Sheikh observed.

On his part,  Mr Imanol Loinaz the Fleet Director of Albacora company which owns pacific star vessels  said that his company was working and mentoring local seamen for skills transfer and that future plans is to set up a fish processing factory in Tanzania.

“We have visited some areas in Zanzibar, Kilwa, Tanga and Dar es salaam region where we are analyzing suitable areas for possibly establishing a processing factory in the near future,” he said.

The event was graced by Mr Suleiman Masoud Makame, the Minister for Blue Economy Fisheries of Zanzibar revolutionary government.