Populations of the African penguin Spheniscus demersus have decreased dramatically over the past century, due in part to competition for food with commercial fisheries, and the species is now endangered as a result. Economic arguments are used to favour fisheries over the needs of penguins, but penguins have direct value to the South African economy thanks to penguin-based tourism at several breeding colonies.
We estimated the value of African penguins at the most important tourist site for African penguins: Boulders on the Cape Peninsula, South Africa. As a mainland colony close to Cape Town, Boulders is accessible to large numbers of visitors; gate revenues in 2009/2010 alone were R14.5 million (US$2 million). A zonal travel-cost analysis revealed an average consumer surplus among Cape Town residents of some R20 per visit. Penguin-based tourism thus forms an integral part of the R25 billion Western Cape tourism sector. Given that the future survival of this valuable resource is dependent, among others, on the availability of sufficient prey, competition with South Africa’s purse-seine fishing fleet should be limited through management strategies that lessen the potential effects of fishing on prey available at the local scale.
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