Krill, a largely unknown but critical ocean species, are the primary food source for penguins, whales, and seals in the Southern Ocean. However, demand for these animals as feed for industrially farmed fish and to produce high-value oils used in nutritional supplements is triggering an expansion of the fishery beyond a level that its population can sustain. Left unchecked, krill fishing in certain areas could outpace efforts to protect the well-known species that depend on it.
“It is perfect timing that two of Hollywood’s biggest names are portraying the smallest actors in one of the world’s most pristine ocean ecosystems,” says Gerald Leape, a senior officer at the Pew Environment Group. “Existing efforts to regulate krill catch must be sustained and enforced, so that animals such as penguins and seals are not competing against industrial fishing vessels just to survive.”
In the past decade, fleets from more countries have begun to fish for krill. Some have adopted fishing technologies and methods that allow them to catch and process this species continuously, resulting in much higher catches. These operations, combined with accelerating loss of the sea ice that provides essential habitat for krill, threaten to deplete stocks in key feeding areas for penguins, seals, and whales.
From 24 October – 4 November 2011, CCAMLR, a regional fisheries management organization whose mandate is to conserve the marine life of the Southern Ocean, is meeting in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. Its 25 member governments include the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, the European Union, China, South Korea, Russia, Ukraine, Norway, and Japan.
The Pew Environment Group is asking CCAMLR delegates at this month’s meeting to:
• Require observers on all krill-fishing vessels.
• Set up a dedicated fund to monitor populations of krill predators.
• Maintain smaller sub-area divisions of the ocean to manage krill, in order to prevent local depletions that will harm animals such as penguins.
The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a nongovernmental organization that works globally to establish pragmatic, science-based policies that protect our oceans, preserve our wildlands, and promote clean energy. For more information, visit www.PewEnvironment.org.
Note: This article is from the Environment Group Pew at www.PewEnvironment.org, 26 October 2011.