The fishing industry and a coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have agreed to stop krill harvesting in an area of the Antarctic Ocean, to protect the penguin population. Krill, which is used as a component in fishmeal for feed as well as pet food and nutritional supplements for humans, is a key part of the penguins’ diet.
The closure is year-round and permanent, affecting a 4 500km² area of ocean around Hope Bay in the northern Antarctic Peninsula. The move is supported by the Association of Responsible Krill harvesting companies (ARK) and an NGO coalition of Greenpeace, Pew, WWF and Oceanites.
The move expands voluntary restricted zones that came into effect in 2018. It is intended to secure the year-round protection of the largest Adélie penguin colony in the region, and sends a strong statement of intent in support of a marine protected area in the Antarctic Peninsula from industry to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and the entire Antarctic community.
The companies making the commitment represent 85% of the krill fishing industry in the Antarctic and are all members of the Association of Responsible Krill harvesting companies (ARK). They are: Aker BioMarine, CNFC, Jeong IL Co., Dongwon Ind. Co., PescaChile, Rimfrost, Fujian Zhengguan Fisheries Development Corporation, Liaoning Pelagic Fisheries corporation.
Pål Skogrand, director of Antarctic affairs with krill harvesting company Aker BioMarine, said: “Nature is changing fast in Antarctica, faster than policy and regulation is able to understand and keep up with. When the krill industry moves to an all-year closure ahead of its time, this is a necessary precautionary action that we take because we can. To get things right in Antarctica we need to move outside of our comfort zones and develop ‘shared ownership’ of crucial conservation concepts across industry, Governments and NGOs”.
Aker BioMarine says studies have shown a strong population decline among the Adélie penguins within the time span they have been monitored. By closing this area, the company says, the krill industry reinforces its precautionary approach, upholding important ecosystem values and facilitating a better scientific understanding of penguin performance. The move will also help answer the question of why some colonies are in decline and others are not.
Will McCallum of Greenpeace’s Protect the Oceans campaign, said: “This is a major step towards seeing permanent protection in the Antarctic Peninsula and we are pleased to see the fishing industry listening to the movement of individuals, scientists and politicians across the world calling for ocean protection… we urge governments to step up and commit to creating ocean sanctuaries in the Antarctic, free from harmful human activities. At this year’s major UN conference on Biodiversity they need to agree an ambitious target to protect at least 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030.”