Antarctic krill – Antarctic Wildlife Need Krill

Antarctic krill-Antarctic Wildlife Need Krill

Some key Antarctic wildlife species depend heavily on krill(Euphausia superba). Blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) , crabeater (Lobodon carcinophagus) and leopard seals (Hydrurga leptonyx), as well as seabirds such as Emperor (Aptenodytes forsteri), rockhopper (Eudyptes chrysocome)and Adelie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae), and three species of albatross are all primarily krill feeders. Of these species the blue whale and the black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophrys) are IUCN redlisted as Endangered and the rockhopper penguin is considered Vulnerable. Ensuring a consistent food source is crucial to their long term survival.

Climate Change Impacts Krill Populations-Antarctic krill

Climate change is having a negative impact on krill spawning and nursery areas. Krill density is directly correlated with the duration and extent of sea ice. Less sea ice for shorter periods of time mean less krill survive. If sea surface temperatures continue to rise, the situation will only worsen.

Commercial Uses for Krill-Antarctic krill

Krill are sought commercially for aquaculture for fish meal and Omega 3 fish oil. Salmon farms prefer using krill as they also impart their pink color to the muscle of the fish, making them more attractive to the buying public. Krill has become popular in the medical community to aid in post surgical healing and decrease cholesterol levels.

The Problem With the Krill Fishery-Antarctic krill

Much of the current krill fishery is conducted within the foraging ranges of the krill dependent marine mammal and seabird species Other than the whales, all these Antarctic creatures are land based so their foraging range, especially seabirds with young to feed, has to be limited or those young do not survive.

The Proposed Solution to Protect Krill Populations

The Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition(ASOC) has presented several papers before the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) which outline ways of ‘preventing or mimizing the risk of changes in the marine ecosystem. These papers can be found on the above ASOC website.

Suggestions for Managing the Krill Fishery Include:


  • Taking a highly precautionary approach to krill fishing which incorporates the uncertainties and optimizes data collection necessary for management.
  • Setting catch limits that will ensure enough krill is available in each area where the fishery operates, especially in critical marine mammal and seabird foraging and breeding areas
  • Regulating where the fisheries occur to minimize impact on Antarctic wildlife that is dependent on krill, including Scientific Observer programs to ensure compliance.
  • Identifying, documenting and assessing critical areas for krill productivity, as well as foraging and breeding areas of krill dependent species, for listing as Marine Protected Areas.

By initiating these proposals the organizations involved hope to prevent the type of fishery collapse that has happened in other areas.

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