Win for wildlife as krill fishing restricted in Antarctica

July 10, 2018
Antarctica is home to penguins, seals, whales and other marine life with krill a staple food for many species

Five major krill fishing firms Tuesday agreed to halt operations across huge swathes of the Antarctic to help protect wildlife in a move hailed as "bold and progressive" by conservationists.

The vast frozen continent is home to penguins, seals, whales and other marine life with krill a staple food for many species.

But a combination of climate change and industrial-scale fishing has been hitting populations of the small crustacean, with potentially disastrous impacts on larger predators.

Now the five companies that make up the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting (ARK)—from Norway, Chile, South Korea and China—have agreed to stop fishing in sensitive coastal areas.

They also threw their support behind a planned network of (MPAs) throughout the Southern Ocean, including in places where they currently operate.

"Our members agree that the industry must develop sustainably to ensure long-term viability of the krill stocks and the predators that depend on it," ARK said in a statement.

"Today, we are moving forward with a pioneer initiative, implementing voluntary restricted zones for the krill fishery in the Antarctic Peninsula."

The shrimp-like crustacean, which is rich in protein, is primarily used in the aquaculture industry although its oil is a popular nutritional supplement.

ARK represent 85 percent of the Antarctic krill fishing industry and conservationists said it was a significant move.

"This is a bold and progressive response from these krill fishing companies, and we hope to see the remainder of the krill industry follow suit," said Greenpeace spokesman Phil Vine.

"The momentum for protection of the Antarctic's waters and wildlife is snowballing."

Plans were set out in 2009 to establish a series of MPAs in the Southern Ocean allowing to migrate between areas for breeding and foraging.

But progress has been slow by members of the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)—a treaty tasked with overseeing protection and sustainable exploitation in the area.

While a massive US and New Zealand-backed MPA around the Ross Sea—covering an area roughly the size of Britain, Germany and France combined—was agreed in 2016, an Australia and France-led push to create a second protected area in East Antarctica failed last year.

Russia and China were widely seen as the stumbling blocks—worried about compliance issues and fishing rights.

Consensus is needed from all 24 member countries and the European Union.

They meet again in Hobart in October when a third, German-backed plan to protect the Weddell Sea, which extends from the southeast of South America over some 2.8 million square kilometres (1.1 million square miles), will also be on the agenda.

Andrea Kavanagh, head of The Pew Charitable Trusts' Antarctic and Southern Ocean work, said she hoped CCAMLR could build on the decision.

"Governments should follow industry's lead and support MPAs," she said.

Explore further: Drive for giant new marine sanctuary in Antarctica

Related Stories

Drive for giant new marine sanctuary in Antarctica

October 16, 2017

Australia and France kick off a fresh push Monday to create a vast marine sanctuary in pristine East Antarctica, hoping to build on the success of landmark deal secured last year at a key annual conservation summit.

Hopes dashed for giant new Antarctic marine sanctuary

October 28, 2017

Hopes for a vast new marine sanctuary in pristine East Antarctica were dashed Saturday after a key conservation summit failed to reach agreement, with advocates urging "greater vision and ambition".

Five facts about Antarctic sanctuaries

October 28, 2016

Agreement was reached Friday to create a vast US and New Zealand-backed Antarctic marine sanctuary in the Ross Sea—the world's largest—at a meeting of the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in ...

Russia holds key to Antarctic marine sanctuaries

October 17, 2016

Talks opened in Australia on Monday to create two vast marine sanctuaries aimed at protecting the pristine wilderness of Antarctica with Russia and China key to whether they succeed.

Australia confident of Antarctic marine reserve in 2015

November 1, 2014

Australia said on Saturday it was confident its plans for a marine reserve to protect biodiversity in East Antarctica would succeed next year, after international talks in Hobart failed to agree on the measure.

Recommended for you

Matter waves and quantum splinters

March 25, 2019

Physicists in the United States, Austria and Brazil have shown that shaking ultracold Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) can cause them to either divide into uniform segments or shatter into unpredictable splinters, depending ...

How tree diversity regulates invading forest pests

March 25, 2019

A national-scale study of U.S. forests found strong relationships between the diversity of native tree species and the number of nonnative pests that pose economic and ecological threats to the nation's forests.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.