Event highlights penguins’ plight

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JACK.CONROY@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

A colourful collection of animals and people with an environmental message gathered in the Balclutha town plaza on Friday.

South Otago Forest and Bird members dressed up as sea creatures to raise awareness for the need to help the district’s yellow-eyed penguins, particularly at Long Point in the Catlins.

Forest and Bird member Jane Young said the organisation was trying to draw attention to an issue which was steadily growing worse.

Yellow-eyed penguin breeding pairs had declined from about 50 to five at Long Point over the past five years.

“It’s not good at all,” Mrs Young said.

Forest and Bird believed a marine reserve was needed to protect the penguin foraging area, she said.

Group members who had been trapping in that area ‘‘could see trawlers out in the water’’.

Heavy fishing was depleting a natural food source for the sea birds, Mrs Young said.

The Ministry for the Environment had carried out public consultations over previous years, but no decision had been reached on Long Point.

The demonstrators made their way down Clyde St entering shops to spread the word.

The event was one of many held around the country as part of Seaweek, run by the NZ Association for Environmental Education.