Compiled Sanet van Zijl
The many species of seabirds that thrive along the Namibian coast, surviving off of the rich, life-giving Benguela Current, are facing a host of threats.
The Benguela Current flows north along the west coast of South Africa and Namibia. The southern part of the current meets the warmer Aghulhas Current flowing east from the Indian Ocean and the northern part interacts with the warmer Angolan current flowing south. The mixing of warm and cold currents causes highly productive upwellings – which are ideal thriving conditions for populations of marine mammals, seabirds and fish. Important migratory bird populations also find shelter here in coastal lagoons and bays.
The African Eurasian Migratory Water birds Agreement recently presented a three-day workshop in Swakopmund; where the decision was made to institute an inter-government conservation plan in order to protect the Benguela seabirds. Among those gathered for the workshop were officials from the ministries of fisheries, environment and tourism, the South East Atlantic Fisheries Organization (SEAFO) and the Benguela Current Commission. The nine bird species that comprise the Benguela seabirds, of which six are endemic to Namibia, were discussed. These nine species are: Cape Cormorants, Bank Cormorants, Crowned Cormorants, African Penguin, Cape Gannet, Damara Tern, Swift Tern, Caspian Tern and the African Black Oystercatcher.
These bird species are very important as their excrements contribute to Guano production. Guano is extremely valuable and makes an outstanding agricultural fertilizer. At the time being, the Guano is being harvested faster than it is being deposited and extraction destroys habitat. Along with this destruction, disturbance by tourists and low fish stock in the sea have also led to dwindling numbers of these beautiful birds.
Those attending the workshop came up with an action plan that will be drafted by Bird Life South Africa and will be presented at the next meeting of parties of the BCC for adoption. Said meeting will be held December of this year in Bonn, Germany.