China News Service, Aug. 17 (Reuters) - A scientific study has found that since the South African government allowed ships to conduct "sea refueling" in the waters off St. Croix Island in Algoa Bay six years ago The noise has caused a dramatic drop in the number of African penguins on St. Croix.

Screenshot from Reuters report

  Located on a busy shipping lane on South Africa's east coast, Algoa Bay is rich in marine and bird life, and the waters are frequented by southern right whales.

  "We found that the noise level, which was already high, has doubled again," said Nelson Mandela University marine expert Picheglu on August 16.

  Scientists have found that increased noise levels can affect the ability of sea creatures to find prey, communicate and navigate.

  Picheglou noted that St. Croix breeding has decreased by nearly 85 percent from 8,500 pairs in 2016 to 1,200 pairs in 2022.

"I count dead birds on the beach every month," he said.

  The research results were published on August 10 in the journal Overall Environmental Science.

  The penguins on St. Croix are endangered due to various challenges, including the fishing of rare prey by industrial activity, Picheglu said.

  In 2019, there was an oil spill from a ship in Algoa Bay, and people later found penguins covered in oil in the waters.

Environmentalists have called on the South African government to ban bunkering at sea, with little success.