Majority of krill fishing companies join Greenpeace in protecting Antarctic Ocean
A host of seafood industry representatives and companies have aligned with conservation groups to support the creation of marine protected areas in the Antarctic, according to a roundtable announcement hosted at the Greenpeace-led Antarctic 360° event in Cambridge, United Kingdom this week.
Aker BioMarine (Norway), Pesca Chile (Chile), Insung (South Korea), Rimfrost (Norway), and China National Fisheries Corporation (China) have all agreed to the instatement of a voluntary krill fishery closure along the Antarctic Peninsula, the World Wildlife Foundation explained in a press release. Additionally, Aker BioMarine, the world’s largest krill fishing company, pledged its support to the creation of marine sanctuaries in Antarctica through the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in coming years.
“Safeguarding the Antarctic ecosystem in which we operate is part of who we are. Our ongoing dialogue with ARK members, scientists and the community of environmental NGOs, including Greenpeace, is what makes additional efforts like this possible. We are positive that ARK's commitment will help ensure krill as a sustainable and stable source of healthy omega-3s for the future,” Aker BioMarine Executive Vice President Kristine Hartmann said. “Through our commitment we are showing that it is possible for no-fish zones and sustainable fisheries to co-exist. Our intention with this commitment is to support CCAMLR’s work on establishing a network of large-scale science-based marine protected areas in the Antarctic."
Greenpeace noted in a press release how the commitment “will see nearly all krill companies operating in the Antarctic voluntarily stop fishing in huge areas around the Antarctic Peninsula.” According to the NGO, the pledge will also facilitate the creation of buffer zones around breeding colonies of penguins, thus protecting a broad range of Antarctic wildlife.
Starting in 2020, some of the world’s most prominent krill fishing companies will observe a closure of identified ecologically sensitive areas recommended for protection, Greenpeace said. Scientists and stakeholders have already gathered to start drafting technical plans of action for potential marine protected areas in the Antarctic Ocean, Greenpeace noted, including one expected to cover an expanse of around 695,000 square miles in the Weddell Sea. Talks continued at the NGO-helmed Antarctic 360° event, with Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem, who joined Greenpeace’s expedition to the Antarctic in January 2018, also involved.
Proposals for marine protected areas will go before the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) for approval in October 2018, when the group convenes in Hobart, Tasmania, according to Greenpeace.
Industry support has arrived from companies beyond the Antarctic krill fishery’s big five (also referred to as the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies), with Denmark-based sustainable aquaculture firm BioMar Group, which sources MSC-certified Antarctic krill from Aker BioMarine, lauding its business partner’s commitment.
“Sourcing krill can be done at safe levels that considers the Antarctic ecosystem and marine species that rely on it as an essential nutrient in their diet. This initiative further strengthens the sustainability and precautionary practising shown by our supplier Aker BioMarine. The overwhelming support for this commitment up and down the value chain shows just what can be achieved when we collaborate together under the shared vision of a sustainable aquaculture industry,” BioMar Global Sustainability Director Vidar Gundersen said.
BioMar, which has already achieved its sustainability KPI of 100 percent MSC-certified krill, highlighted krill’s importance to the Antarctic eco-system, with many marine species such as penguins, whales, salmon, shrimp, and crab reliant on the species.
Phil Trathan OBE, head of conservation biology at the British Antarctic Survey and lead ecological adviser for the U.K. Delegation to CCAMLR, reiterated the importance of krill for the Antarctic ecosystem at large.
“Many animals, including penguins, seals and whales, depend upon krill in the Antarctic,” Trathan said. “For over 20 years the Conservation Biology group at BAS, has worked alongside the international community, tracking key species to identify favoured feeding areas at different times of year. This work underpinned the U.K. call, from 2016, for the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources to prohibit krill fishing in coastal zones adjacent to the Antarctic Peninsula, especially during the summer breeding season. CCAMLR has yet to take such a step, so it is to be welcomed that the majority of krill companies have decided to take these voluntary steps. Ongoing work is still required to assess the risks associated with krill fishing practices, so I hope that these companies will be equally responsive as the science continues to develop.”
Andrea Kavanagh, director of Antarctic and Southern Ocean conservation for Pew Charitable Trusts, said the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies has taken a big leap forward for commercial fishing interests in Antarctica.
“The Association of Responsible Krill harvesting companies’ support for the creation of a network of marine protected areas (MPAs), including large no-fishing zones, is a truly visionary step that more commercial fishing interests in Antarctica and around the world should follow. Cooperation among scientists, governments, industry, and conservation groups is the surest bet to protecting the 30 percent of the ocean that scientists tell us is needed to maintain global ocean health. We expect to see the Weddell Sea and waters off East Antarctica declared marine parks in October. Governments should follow industry's lead and support MPAs,” Kavanagh said.
There is perceptible momentum gathering for the protection of Antarctic waters and wildlife beyond the industry, agreed Frida Bengtsson, of Greenpeace’s Protect the Antarctic campaign.
“The momentum for protection of the Antarctic’s waters and wildlife is snowballing. A huge movement of people globally has been joined by scientists, governments, celebrities and now even the companies fishing in the Antarctic. This is a bold and progressive move from these krill fishing companies, and we hope to see the remainder of the krill industry follow suit,” Bengtsson said.
“This October, when the proposal is on the table to create a huge Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary in the Weddell Sea, politicians must know that the eyes of the world and the weight of history are upon them,” she added.
Photo courtesy of Aker BioMarine