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our penguin conservation work in chile and argentina        

The Organization for the Conservation of Penguins, in partnership with the Chilean, Argentine and British governments, has established a penguin monitoring programme in Chile and Argentina. The programme monitors the effects of tourism, and compares penguin populations in Chile and Argentina, where commercial fishing is now banned, with those in the Falklands, where commercial fishing close to penguin breeding sites still occurs.

Comparison with data from the Falkland Islands, highlights the problems faced when food resources are diminished by commercial fishing boats, operating within 30km of Magellanic penguin breeding sites.


Fishing within 30km of Penguins:

CHILE increasing
ARGENTINA increasing
FALKLANDS 90% decline over 20 yrs

Breeding Success (chicks per pair):

Foraging Duration (time required to catch food for chicks):
CHILE 18 hours
ARGENTINA 18 hours
FALKLANDS 34 hours

Fledging Weights:
CHILE 3.3 kgs

Fledging Survival:
CHILE high
FALKLANDS very low

Full Reports:
1. Bingham (2002) The decline of Falkland Islands penguins in the presence of a commercial fishing industry - Revista Chilena de Historia Natural 75: 805-818

2. Bingham M (2020) Magellanic penguin (Spheniscidae) monitoring results for Magdalena Island (Chile) and Cabo Virgenes (Argentina) 2000 - 2019. Anales Del Instituto De La Patagonia, 48(1), 27-35.


photo of penguins in chile
click to enlarge

Our population studies of Magdalena Island (CHILE) record a penguin population of around 65,000 breeding pairs, an increase of around 6% over the last 8 years. Our studies of Cabo Virgenes (ARGENTINA) show a population of 120,000 breeding pairs, an increase of over 30% over the last 10 years. These are the colonies in Chile and Argentina closest to the Falklands, and their increases have taken place as Falklands penguin populations have declined by 90%. The reason is that Argentina and Chile protect penguins from commercial fishing, and the Falklands do not.

Click on the links below for examples of survey maps and data in English and Spanish:



Where commercial fishing is allowed within the 30km foraging range of breeding penguins, the abundance of fish and squid is obviously reduced. This means that adults seeking food for chicks take much longer finding food (34 hours in the Falklands, but only 18 hours in Argentina and Chile). Chicks therefore receive much less food, so much fewer chicks survive (only 0.5 chicks per nest in the Falklands, but 1.1 chicks per nest in Chile and 1.0 chicks per nest in Argentina).
The main cause of chick mortality in the Falklands is starvation, and those chicks that do survive to the point of fledging are malnourished (average weight only 2.6 kgs in the Falklands, compared to 3.3 kgs in Chile and 3.0 kgs in Argentina). This lower body weight means that even successful chicks have a lower chance of surviving their first year, which is what we see.

You can support our work to protect penguins by adopting a penguin. Visit our Adopt-a-Penguin page for further details.

In addition to our research on Magdalena Island, we are also training Chilean government staff in seabird monitoring techniques, so that eventually the host country will be able to continue the seabird monitoring programme on a long-term basis. This work was funded by the British government, through the Darwin Initiative Programme.


Adopt a penguin
penguin hatchling photograph

Adopt and name your penguin, and we will send you reports and photos of your penguin's progress. We will even send you a map to show you exactly where your penguin lives, in case you ever want to visit. (Visitors are welcome).

Learn More


buy our book

click here to read more about our book penguins of the falkland islands and south america by doctor mike bingham

The Falklands Regime by Mike Bingham - now available online here or from bookshops world-wide, ISBN: 1420813757

The Falklands Regime by Mike Bingham


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copyright 2002 Environmental Research Unit and Doctor Mike Bingham Design by www.ethicaldesign.co.uk