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Krill fishing companies agree to back Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary

Krill, used for fish food (Koiquestion)Krill, used for fish food (Koiquestion)Most krill fishing companies are to stop fishing krill in the seas around the Antarctic Peninsula. Krill, shrimp-like marine animals, are a crucial link in the Antarctic food chain. Whales, penguins, seals and squid all eat the tiny crustaceans, while other species, such as albatrosses and killer whales, feed on some of the krill-feeders. The decision to stop krill fishing in this area follows pressure by environmental campaign groups, including Greenpeace. “The momentum for protection of the Antarctic’s waters and wildlife is snowballing,” said Frida Bengtsson, of Greenpeace’s Protect the Antarctic campaign.


Antarctic Peninsula shown in box (Wikimedia.org)Antarctic Peninsula shown in box (Wikimedia.org)

Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary

At a meeting to be held in October 2018, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) will decide whether to create an ocean reserve, the largest on Earth. If agreed, the Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary would protect 1.8 million square kilometres in and around the Weddell Sea. Large no-fishing zones would be set up here. The creation of the sanctuary has become much more likely following the krill fishing companies' decision.

Krill

Antarctic krill, up to 2 cm (0.8 inch) longAntarctic krill, up to 2 cm (0.8 inch) longKrill live in all the world's oceans, but mostly in the Southern Ocean, which surrounds the continent of Antarctica. There may be up to 500 million tonnes of krill in the world's oceans today. Campaigners have warned that industrial fishing and climate change is causing a sharp decrease in krill numbers. 

Besides providing food for many ocean creatures, krill has an important role in helping to offset the effects of climate change. The crustaceans remove carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere by feeding off carbon-rich algae in surface waters at night and excreting it when they descend to lower, colder water during the day.



Frozen krill for use as animal feed (Uwe Kils)Frozen krill for use as animal feed (Uwe Kils)

Krill fishing

Companies have been harvesting krill on a large scale since the 1970s. The crustaceans are fished mainly for feed at fish farms and for the supply of omega-3 oils and other health supplements. Around 85% of these companies, members of the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies (ARK), have now made the commitment to stop fishing for krill in Antarctic waters.

ARK is also supporting the establishment of "buffer zones" around penguin breeding colonies and the creation of a number of protected areas in the seas around Antarctica.

Adélie penguin feeds krill to its chick (Liam Quinn)Adélie penguin feeds krill to its chick (Liam Quinn) 

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