Krill fishing boom may threaten Antarctic predators and mediate climate crisis – Food Reservoir

Antarctic krill fishing has increased dramatically over the past two decades by 400 percent, according to a report by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. As the krill fishing industry expands across aquaculture and the pharmaceutical industry, scientists have expressed concerns that these sectors will reduce krill’s carbon sequestration capacity and create competition for krill’s natural predators.

Fishing in the Antarctic region is almost entirely done by krill, according to the State of Fisheries and Aquaculture report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The report reveals that 455,000 tonnes of Antarctic krill were seized in 2020, a sharp increase from less than 100,000 tonnes seized in the late 1990s.

Aquafeed has used krill meal to accelerate fish growth and improve the color and taste of shrimp tails for decades. Krill carries essential nutrients and essential fatty acids, and can augment fishmeal and other expensive ingredients in aquaculture feeds without the burden of poor feed performance, according to the Global Seafood Alliance. Although krill is concentrated in remote areas of the Southern Ocean, commercial interest in harvesting krill is high.

The global aquaculture industry has grown rapidly in recent decades. According to the State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report, the industry has grown from providing just four percent of fish 70 years ago to accounting for more than half of the fish eaten in 2018. The global growth of fish farming has increased demand for Antarctic krill . As an alternative to wild fish in fish feed, according to a report by the Changing Markets Foundation.

While growth in the aquaculture industry has increased demand for krill, NOAA believes that the more recent discovery of krill’s nutritional benefits has also contributed to increased demand for krill fishing in the pharmaceutical sector.

“The supplement part of the krill fishery has changed the nature of the fishery to show a way to make more valuable products from krill than people realized it would,” Dr. George Watters, director of NOAA’s Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division, tells Food. maybe”. tank.

Due to increasing demand, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) has regulated the total krill catch to an “release” level of 620,000 tons distributed over four areas in the southwest Atlantic. Although the Commission for the Conservation of Marine Living Resources of the Pacific has set a total catch limit of 5.62 million metric tons per year, the cap level was set to prevent the krill fleet from concentrating its catch in small areas. If the catch limit set for a subarea is reached, the fishery will be closed to avoid potential impacts on the local ecosystem.

Watters, the U.S. representative to the CCAMLR Scientific Committee, says quotas are just one of the problems management faces in creating a more adaptive system. He says developing Antarctic conservation zones could also help regulate fishing to ensure krill’s natural predators have access to food.

However, a study by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources found that even with precautionary quota systems and protection zones, Antarctic krill harvesting has a significant impact on predators higher up the food chain. Krill feed on phytoplankton, gaining energy to make it a vital food resource for a number of predatory species such as whales, seals, fish, penguins and a range of seabirds.

Watters explains how this challenge is exacerbated by the uneven and ever-changing distribution of krill across the ocean.

“All that krill gets through, but sometimes natural variation can cause periods of decreased predator performance,” Watters tells Food Tank. “It makes you think that it’s not just the total amount of krill that’s important, it’s the nature of the krill swarms.”

Krill are also key mediators in the climate crisis, making the Southern Ocean one of the world’s largest carbon sinks. According to Big Blue Ocean Cleanup, krill consume phytoplankton that stores carbon and release oxygen, then secretes this carbon into tiny pellets that sink to the ocean floor.

The complex nature of krill as a keystone species in the Southern Ocean and a commercially desirable resource has contributed to the discrepancy regarding the future of krill fishing. Simon Seward, executive vice president of human health and nutrition at Aker BioMarine, says many data gaps remain, especially as the impacts of the climate crisis accelerate in the region. Aker BioMarine is an innovative biotechnology and Antarctic krill harvesting company that creates products for human nutrition, pet food and aquaculture.

“It’s clear that we need to harvest more from the ocean, but we need to do it in more innovative and sustainable ways, and in a way that protects ocean health and marine biodiversity globally,” Seward tells Food Tank.

With increasing pressure on wild resources, Seward says krill fisheries, as one of the world’s least exploited and sustainable fisheries, may actually be a solution for future food systems.

“It’s clear that we need to harvest more from the ocean, but we need to do it in more innovative and sustainable ways, and in a way that protects ocean health and marine biodiversity globally,” Seward tells Food Tank.

In 2015, Aker BioMarine partnered with the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Alliance and WWF-Norway to create the Antarctic Wildlife Research (AWR) Fund. The fund, which has raised more than US$1.4 million since its inception, aims to support Antarctic research projects on krill and the ecosystem.

“The goal of Arab-West Reports is to help fill these gaps (in data) by providing additional funding to help various experts complete or expand their work,” Seward says. “Many projects have already been supported with grants and additional initiatives are underway that will help protect the long-term health of the Southern Ocean ecosystem.”

This article was written by Lisa Green.

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Image courtesy of Shannon Lyday/NOAA Animal Textures

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