Another guest post from Debbie Salamone of the Pew Environment Group's Campaign to End Overfishing in the Southeast …
Krill. It’s what’s
for breakfast, lunch and dinner on the Antarctic menu, particularly for whales,
penguins and seals.
Krill are tiny, shrimp-like
crustaceans that are the bread and butter of the Southern Ocean food chain.
They feed countless species. But an expanding commercial krill fishery and
climate change pose serious threats to the shellfish and its iconic predators.
The greatest demand today for Antarctic krill comes from the fish farming
industry which uses krill for feed. Commercial fishing boats also catch and
process krill, which are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, for dietary supplements.
The Commission for
the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources was created 28 years ago
to preserve krill, but there is still no effective management system in place.
The commission is meeting this week in Tasmania, and some conservation organizations,
including the Pew Environment Group, have called on the commission to
geographically spread out where and when krill can be caught.
vessels often trawl in coves and near-shore waters, close to breeding areas and
feeding grounds. When the catch is concentrated in certain areas, the intense
fishing contributes to krill depletion and creates problems for animals in
those areas that have to compete for their food with fishermen.
believe climate change is harming krill, because rising temperatures have
decreased the amount of winter ice, which krill need to survive.
Alone, krill might
not seem too impressive. They are only about 2 ½ inches long and weigh 0.07
ounces, or less than a slice of bread. But together, they are thought to be one
of the largest aggregations of marine life on the planet.
Krill spend most of
their five-to-seven-year life span in huge schools, living in concentrations so
dense and vast that they cover kilometers in every direction with as many as
30,000 krill per cubic meter. Estimates of the total weight of Antarctic krill
range from 55 to 550 million tons.
Talk about power in
numbers. If you want to learn more about krill and see a slideshow of Antarctic
life, visit www.krillcount.org.