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Change the world


Reasons to be Proud - #R2bP: Dr Chris Oosthuizen, a Nelson Mandela University postdoctoral fellow hosted by Prof Pierre Pistorius, was recently awarded a prestigious CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) Scientific Scholarship.

The scholarship  for 2021 and 2022, is to help develop new monitoring indices to improve ecosystem-based feedback management of the krill fishery in Antarctic waters. 

Dr Oosthuizen is affiliated with the Marine Apex Predator Research Unit (MAPRU) within the Institute for Coastal and Marine Research (CMR) and the Department of Zoology.  His research forms part of a collaboration involving Nelson Mandela University, the Norwegian Polar Institute and the South African Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries.

Oceans and fisheries have very significant economic importance for humans.  But, overfishing may degrade ocean ecosystems, threatening biodiversity and ruining viable fisheries.  Therefore, fishery management is needed to ensure sustainability for fish stocks and by extension, the livelihood for those in the industry.  

South Africa, and every other coastal nation globally, is entitled to fish within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ): the area within 200 nautical miles off its shoreline.  Each country manages the fisheries in their EEZ through national legislation.  But who manages fisheries in the high seas, i.e. those occurring in international waters?

In the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, fisheries are managed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Marine Resources.  South Africa is a member of CCAMLR, which means South Africa is engaged in research or harvesting activities in the Southern Ocean, and takes part in the decision-making processes of how to manage Southern Ocean fisheries.  

The Antarctic krill fishery is currently the largest fishery in the Southern Ocean.  Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba; “krill”) is ecologically also a key species that links primary productivity and marine predators in the Southern Ocean marine ecosystem.  It is therefore important to ensure that the krill fishery is sustainable, not only for the harvested species, but also for krill-dependent predator species such as seals, penguins and whales.

CCAMLR is currently working towards improved management of the krill fishery through ecosystem-based management strategies.  This is where Dr Oosthuizen’s research on Chinstrap penguins is important. “How these penguin populations respond to variability in the abundance of their prey is vital, given that continued climate-driven decreases of the krill stock can increase predator-fishery competition for krill, potentially contributing to further population declines”, Dr Oosthuizen said.

“We want to understand how much krill penguin populations need to survive, and how one may detect in near real time whether penguins are stressed for food resources”, Dr Oosthuizen explained. “To do this, we will attach miniaturized GPS, dive and tri-axial accelerometer tags and animal-borne video cameras to penguins, so that we can measure their foraging efficiency in three-dimensional space.  This information will help inform fishing strategies in the Southern Ocean aimed at sustainability in the krill stock and dependent predators.”

Increasingly, researchers from Nelson Mandela University are engaging in large international management-orientated projects like this one, providing substance to the University’s vision of growth and recognition within the marine sciences.  

MAPRU postdoc Chris Oosthuizen was awarded a CCAMLR Scientific Scholarship to aid his research on penguins and krill-fishery management in Antarctica. © Edson Vandeira

A Chinstrap penguin with a GPS-dive-accelerometer backpack arrives at its nest. © Chris Oosthuizen


Contact information
Dr Pierre Pistorius
Senior Lecturer
Tel: 27 41 504 2710