The near threatened Magellanic penguin is iconic to coastal Patagonia and the most abundant seabird breeding on the coast of Argentina. About 1 million pairs of Magellanic penguins breed on the coast of Patagonia in over 60 colonies, with Punta Tombo the largest at around 200,000 breeding pairs. Penguins arrive to their colonies in September and depart in April, to remain at sea during the winter months, ranging north on the Atlantic as far as Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. The vulnerable Southern Rockhopper penguin nests in southern Patagonia and the Malvinas/Falkland Islands. Monitoring of the large colony of Southern Rockhopper penguin in Staten Island, Tiera del Fuego, showed that the total population decreased by 24%, from over 160 thousand nests in 1998 to 127 thousand nests in 2010. Southern Rockhopper penguins in Patagonia are mainly threatened by climate change.
Magellanic penguins are frequently entangled as by-catch by commercial fisheries. As a large number of Magellanic penguins feed on Argentine anchovy, the development of an anchovy fishery off the coast of Argentina and Uruguay is a major concern. In addition, pollution at sea from oil killed over 40,000 Magellanic penguins each year until the mid 1990s. While the oil industry has improved its practices, significantly reducing penguin mortality, about a thousand penguins are still oiled each year.
We work with provincial and national governmental agencies to inform the design and promote the creation of protected areas in land and at sea that help conserve penguins. In addition, we work with integrated land management practices that enhance protection of breeding colonies on private lands. Finally, we have been collaborating in monitoring of the largest breeding population in Argentina for over thirty years, and studying the food needs and spatial use of the marine environment throughout Patagonia, to inform marine spatial planning.