Global Penguin Conservation

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They’ve brought home Academy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, and even a few Stanley Cups for Pittsburgh’s hockey team—all while clad in their famous tuxedos. Known to scientists by the family name Spheniscidae, to the rest of the world they are simply the charismatic penguin. Although they have widespread appeal, many penguin populations are in trouble. And ironically, their biggest fans—humans—are largely the cause.

The Southern Hemisphere is home to 18 species of penguin. They vary in size and appearance, based largely on the climate and geography of their habitat. These aquatic birds can be as large as the 75-pound, 4-foot-tall emperor penguin of Antarctica or as small as the 2-pound, 16-inch little blue of Australia and New Zealand. But despite their differences, all penguins have a few common characteristics. Although flightless, they are expert swimmers and can dive deep and travel long distances underwater. And their distinctive black-and-white coloring that looks like formal wear is countershading that protects them from predators by blending their backs and bellies with the sea or the sky.

Over millions of years, penguins have adapted to the icy waters of the Southern Ocean and to the tropical climate of the Galapagos Islands. But now they are facing their biggest challenge: interference from people. As reported in the recent book Penguins: Natural History and Conservation, climate change, habitat degradation, the introduction of nonnative predators, oil pollution, and depletion of their food sources through overfishing are straining penguin populations. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, most penguin species are in decline.

But it isn't too late. The Pew Charitable Trusts has worked closely with many organizations, including the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, the Antarctic Ocean Alliance, the Global Penguin Society, and Oceanites, to develop a base of scientific information that will inform policy decisions aimed at helping penguins survive and thrive into the future.

Our Work

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  • Protection for East Antarctica

    In the waters off East Antarctica, the MacRobertson, Drygalski, and D’Urville Sea-Mertz areas cover almost a million square kilometres. Together, they make up the current proposal for a system of marine protected areas (MPA) to be considered by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). Read More

  • 4th International Marine Protected Areas Congress

    The Chilean government will host the Fourth International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC4) in La Serena and Coquimbo, Sept. 4-8, 2017. The congress will be followed by a high-level meeting of ministers, influential ocean policy advocates, and decision-makers in Valparaiso on Sept. 9. Over the course of the week, leaders, government officials, representatives of local communities,... Read More

  • As Antarctic Ice Shelf Collapses, CCAMLR Should Act to Protect Ecosystems

    Any day now on the Antarctic Peninsula, 10 percent of the Larsen C ice shelf will calve off and form one of the biggest icebergs ever recorded on the planet, estimated at 3,100 square miles—almost the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined. Scientists with Project MIDAS have been tracking a rift on the shelf for the past two years and announced June 28 that the shelf is... Read More

CCAMLR 101: How to Protect Antarctica's Marine Life

CCAMLR 101: How to Protect Antarctica's Marine Life

Media Contact

Barbara Cvrkel

Officer, Communications