For the endangered and endemic African penguin and Cape gannet, Algoa Bay is one of their last breeding strongholds along the South African coastline with St Croix and Bird Island holding about 9000 breeding pairs of the African penguin and Bird Island holding approximately 60 000 breeding pairs of Cape gannets.
It is indeed an incredible site to be able to watch hundreds of African penguins and Cape gannets at their nesting sites as Cape fur seals from the nearby Black Rock circle and hunt shoals of fish that skitter across the surface to try and avoid the highly efficient hunters. A little further offshore, great white sharks in turn hunt the seals and small pelagic fish attract hundreds of common and bottlenose dolphins and Bryde’s whales that close ranks and circle the small fish, pushing them to the surface where the African penguins, Cape gannets, cormorants and terns make the most of the bounty. The gannets dive like arrows from the sky onto their intended targets which are then quickly swallowed head first and then they lumber into the air again to repeat the process over and over. Within minutes, this incredible spectacle passes, leaving satiated gannets floating on the calm water between disappearing dolphins and whales. At dusk, the historical lighthouse, in the center of the island, casts its glow, often through a thick sea mist, over the returning gannets and penguins as they come to roost.
If this mammalian and avian spectacle is not enough, the subtidal habitats around the islands contain many endemic species of seaweeds, invertebrates and fish. Bird Island is particularly important as a protected area for abalone that is being plundered elsewhere through rampant poaching.
The sheer diversity and intensity of species on and around the island confirm without a doubt that this marine protected area is indeed a national, if not global treasure that needs to be conserved.
For more information please do visit Marine Protected Areas South Africa and also please help spread the news in support of our MPAs.