Every Krill Counts


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.


Industrial fishing

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.


Scientists also

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.


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