Using habitat models for chinstrap penguins Pygoscelis antarctica to advise krill fisheries management during the penguin breeding season
Aim: To predict the at-sea distribution of chinstrap penguins across the South Orkney Islands and to quantify the overlap with the Southern Ocean krill fishery.
Location: South Orkney Islands, Antarctica.
Methods: Penguins from four colonies across the South Orkney Islands were tracked using global positioning systems (GPSs) and time depth recorders (TDRs). Relationships between a variety of environmental and geometric variables and the at-sea distribution of penguins were investigated using general additive models for the three main phases of the breeding season. Subsequently, the final models were extrapolated
across the South Orkney archipelago to predict the at-sea
distribution of penguins from colonies where no tracking data are available. Finally, the overlap between areas used by chinstrap penguins and the krill fishery was quantified.
Results: The foraging distribution of chinstrap penguins can be predicted using two simple and static variables: the distance from the colony and the direction of travel
towards the shelf-edge, while avoiding high densities of Pygoscelis penguins from other colonies. Additionally, we find that the chinstrap penguins breeding on the South Orkney Islands use areas which overlap with frequently used krill fishing areas and that this overlap is most prominent during the brood and crèche phases of the breeding season.
Main conclusions: This is the first step in understanding the potential impacts of the krill fishery, for all colonies including those where no empirical tracking data are available. However, with the available data, it is not currently possible to infer an impact of the krill fisheries on penguins. With this in mind, we recommend the implementation of monitoring schemes to investigate the effects of prey depletion on predator populations and to ensure that management continues to follow a precautionary approach and is addressed at spatial and temporal scales relevant to ecosystem operation.
Authors: Warwick-Evans, Victoria, Ratcliffe, Norman, Lowther, Andrew D., Manco, Fabrizio, Ireland, Louise, Clewlow, Harriet L., Trathan, Phil N.