WASHINGTON (CN) – Rockhopper penguins living on the Campbell Plateau south of New Zealand are threatened by rising ocean temperatures, and the population has been protected under the Endangered Species Act, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision.
Changes in ocean temperature have resulted in the shift of the penguin’s primary prey, white fish, away from the four traditional Rockhopper breeding areas around Macquarie, Campbell, Auckland and the Antipopdes islands.
The rockhopper is one of 12 species of penguin the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the agency to list as threatened or endangered. With this listing decision, the Fish and Wildlife Service has made a finding on each species in the original petition.
The Campbell Plateau subpopulation of rockhoppers has been rapidly declining. In 1978 there were 50,000 breeding pairs in the Antipodes Islands. Twenty years later only 4,000 pairs remained, and similar declines have occurred in the other three nesting areas.
For species not indigenous to the United States, the act bans importation or trade in a species found to be threatened or endangered by a U.S. agency.