Mobile Menu Open Mobile Menu Close

Poster: Risks and refugia: assessing the spatial overlap between yellow-eyed penguin foraging distribution, commercial fisheries, and marine protected areas

Rachel P. Hickcox1,3*, Yolanda van Heezik1, Mariano Rodríguez Recio2, Thomas Mattern1, Melanie J. Young1, Philip J. Seddon1

1Department of Zoology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

2Biodiversity and Conservation Department, King Juan Carlos University, Madrid, Spain

3Email:; PhD candidate

While at sea, yellow-eyed penguins are most vulnerable to the risk of accidental bycatch, the impacts of reduced prey availability and foraging efficiency, seafloor habitat degradation caused by trawling and dredging, and other indirect threats in areas where they overlap with commercial fisheries. Marine protected areas (MPAs) are one primary method used to mitigate some of these threats that are likely contributing to the continued population decline of yellow-eyed penguins on mainland New Zealand. It is therefore imperative to identify areas where MPAs would be the most effective at protecting foraging penguins. We first created a novel index to assess the spatial overlap between the projected distribution of penguins and commercial gillnet/trawl fishing intensity. We then established a baseline measure of the overlap between the predicted mainland foraging range of yellow-eyed penguins, current MPAs, and the proposed South-East Marine Protected Area (SEMPA) network. Penguins are most at risk from gillnet fisheries over the middle of the continental shelf and around Stewart Island and from trawl fisheries inshore along much of the South Island coast and north of the Otago Peninsula. However, less than 1% of their total range overlaps with a marine reserve or MPA, and the proposed SEMPA network will only protect 3.6% of the penguins’ range. By assessing threats to yellow-eyed penguin survival, these findings can be used to inform ongoing conservation management decisions and marine spatial planning to prevent the predicted localised extinction of this endangered species.