Australian research says no conclusive evidence krill harvesting harms predators

Related tags Antarctic krill fishery Krill

Research out of Australia has found “insufficient” evidence that krill harvesting is damaging Antarctic, land-based predator populations like seals and penguins.

The Centre for Conservation Georgraphy in Sydney publicised the report that drew on conclusions gathered after spending four years assessing krill fishing methods aboard an Aker BioMarine craft.

“There is insufficient evidence to indicate that fishing activity occurring during non-breeding times of the year is having any effect on prey availability to krill predators,”​ wrote Rob Nicoll and Lucinda Douglass in their paper, ‘Mapping Krill Trawling and Predator Distribution; Mapping Selected Krill Predator Summer Foraging Ranges with Fishing Activity of Aker Biomarine's Saga Sea 2007 - 2011.’ 

Norway-based Aker welcomed the findings, and a review of it that found no link between the fishery and movements and eating habits of land-based predators.  

Sigve Nordrum, the Norwegian firms conservation director said in a statement: "When Aker earned Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)certification, WWF-Norway required that Aker develop a comprehensive research program to map our fishing operation in relation to predator species in order to address some lingering uncertainties about the relationship of the krill fishery on the total krill biomass and predator populations.”

"The report's findings, that 'there is insufficient evidence to indicate that fishing activity occurring during non-breeding times of the year is having any effect on prey availability to krill predators,' is reinforcement of our effort to sustainably manage our fishery is having positive results."

The review was conducted by Stephen Nicol of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-Operative Research Centre, and Nina Jensen and Fredrik Myhre of WWF-Norway.

Other krill predators like whales were not considered in the review of the omega-3 and phospholipid source that has won favour for its nutritional profile but which continues to face down environmental concerns that have led to actions like product withdrawals by the US healthy foods chain, Whole Foods.

Looking long-term

WWF-Norway CEO Nina Jensen said the NGO was, very content with Aker BioMarine's willingness to take necessary actions in line with WWF's recommendations.”

"The measures taken will improve the protection of the krill, the predators and the ecosystem, and ensure the long-term sustainability of the krill fishery.”

A recent MSC audit increased Aker’s Maintenance of Ecosystem score from 91 to 94.3.

The audit took no issue with a 2011 re-estimation of the krill biomass from about 37m tonnes to 60m tonnes and a prevailing trigger limit for potential environmental effects of 620,000 tonnes.

The current annual catch is about 200,000 tonnes.

The Antarctic krill fishery is managed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Life Resources (CCAMLR).

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