South Africa said on Friday it will impose a 10-year ban on fishing near penguin colonies in a bid to bring the feathered animal back from the brink of extinction.

The critically-endangered African penguin, endemic to South Africa and Namibia, risks being wiped out by 2035 if no action is taken, said Environment Minister Barbara Creecy in a press conference.

"I have taken a decision to implement fishing limitations in the waters around penguin colonies for a minimum of 10 years," Creecy said.

The little black and white bird, which waddles awkwardly on land but turns into a fast-swimming torpedo in the water, has suffered a drastic decline in numbers.

Of the about one million mating pairs -- penguins are monogamous -- that huddled on southern Africa's shorelines a century ago, only 10,000 remain today, according to the ministry.

Competition for food is thought to be among the main reasons for the decline, Creecy said.

Ship traffic pollution and degradation of suitable nesting habitats are also to blame, she added.

Diseases and extreme weather events, like heavy rains that wash away nests and chicks have too taken a toll, according to experts.

The fishing ban will concern six penguin hotspots, including Robben Island -- home to the infamous apartheid-era prison -- and Bird Island.

The decision came on the back of an expert report and will be reviewed after six years of implementation and data collection, Creecy said.