First krill survey in 19 years estimates 72 million tons of biomass

The data from the first krill survey of the Southern Ocean in 19 years has been completed, and estimates that the krill biomass is roughly 72 million metric tons. 

The survey, which departed in January, was led by the Norwegian Institute for Marine Research and involved six vessels – including Norway’s new research vessel, the Kronprins Haakon, an icebreaker. The survey utilized echo-sounding to estimate the krill population in the areas krill is typically fished. 

“We took samples in what is known as Area 48, which is where most of the krill fishing takes place,” Bjørn Krafft, head of the expedition and IMR scientist, said in a release from the institute of marine research.

The last survey of the population took place in 2000, and the recent survey followed its footsteps by surveying the same locations at the same time. That estimate found 60.3 million metric tons. 

While the recent survey indicates a larger biomass, the data isn’t exact, Krafft said. 

“A population estimate is not an absolute figure and is subject to a margin of error,” he said. In addition, the population fluctuates from year-to-year.

“Based on the annual surveys we conduct in smaller parts of the Southern Ocean, we can state that the population rises and falls from year to year, and there appear to be cycles lasting five to six years," he said.

Krill are an important feed species for a variety of sea life. In Area 48, which contains four sub-areas that can be fished for krill, the combined quota is 620,000 metric tons. Typically, it is Norway, China, South Korea, and Chile that fish for the species in the area. 

In May, a Chinese firm launched the “Shen Lan,” a 21-meter krill catcher-processor with capacity to handle 50,000 tons of krill per year. 

Photo courtesy of Oda Linnea Brekke Iden/HI


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