Concern that localized krill depletion will significantly impact land and marine animals such as penguins and whales was the basis of a press briefing held by Pew Environment Group on Wednesday.
While not overfished, Antarctic krill stocks will be at the forefront of discussions at the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) meeting in Hobart, Tasmania, from 25 October to 5 November.
At the meeting, Pew will urge CCAMLR to adopt precautionary measures to spread out krill fishing over space and time, conduct a new krill stock assessment and require official observers on all krill fishing vessels in the Southern Ocean.
Pew said CCALMR realized a management system for krill was necessary and urgent 30 years ago but has yet to complete the task. Last year, CCALMR for the first time was forced to halt fishing in one of three sub-areas where krill fishing primarily takes place.
“Ninety-eight to 99 percent of krill fishing is done on 25 percent of the krill biomass,” said Gerry Leape, director of Pew’s Antarctic Krill Conservation Project. “In the past year, the catch increased 50 percent.”
“Predators rely on [krill] as a primary food source or rely on animals that eat krill as a primary food source,” said Heather Urquhart of the New England Aquarium in Boston. “We need to take a good hard look at what is going on in harvesting this species.”
Pew tied increased catches to the new fishing technique of pumping, in which krill are fished into a net with a balloon function that sucks it into the back of the net an onto boat decks continuously without having to pull the net up. The technology was invented and used by Norwegian fishing vessels as well as an Aker BioMarine vessel, which in May was certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council despite protests from Pew.
In addition, increased aquaculture production, which uses krill for fish feed, is taking a toll on the krill population, said Leape, as is China’s increasing presence in CCALMR and companies that produce krill oil.