Research carried out by Greenpeace has found that chinstrap penguin colonies in the Antarctic have declined by as much as 77% in the last 50 years.
Scientists surveying chinstrap penguin colonies in the Antarctic have found that the impacts of climate change have led to drastic reductions of chinstraps in many colonies, with some declining by as much as 77% since they were last surveyed almost 50 years ago.
The independent researchers, who joined a Greenpeace expedition to the region, found that penguin numbers had declined in every colony surveyed on Elephant Island, an important penguin habitat northeast of the Antarctic Peninsula.
The overall number of chinstrap penguins on Elephant Island has dropped almost 60% since the last survey in 1971, with a total count now of only 52,786 breeding pairs, plummeting from previous survey figures of 122,550 pairs.
The scientists say that the dramatic decline can largely be attributed to the impacts of climate change. Reduced sea ice and warmer oceans have led to less krill, the primary food source of chinstrap penguins.
Louisa Casson, Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner, said: "Penguins are an iconic species, but this new research shows how the climate emergency is decimating their numbers and having far-reaching impacts on wildlife in the most remote corners of Earth."
This follows the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula setting a record temperature of 18.3°C on 6 February, beating the former record of 17.5°C on 24 March 2015, according to Argentina's national meteorological service (SMN).
Greenpeace is supporting the call for 30% of the world's oceans to be protected by 2030. Governments will be negotiating the target at the United Nations Global Ocean Treaty Summit. A final decision is set to be made in 2020.
Louisa Casson added: "2020 is a critical year for our oceans. Governments must respond to the science and agree a strong Global Ocean Treaty at the United Nations this spring, that can create a network of ocean sanctuaries to protect marine life and help these creatures adapt to our rapidly changing climate".