Krill fishing vessels. © Daniel Beltrá/Greenpeace

Reefer vessels Skyfrost and Pamyat Ilicha. © Paul Hilton/Greenpeace

Javier Bardem and a chinstrap penguin. © Christian Åslund/Greenpeace

Antarctic krill. Image: © Christian Åslund/Greenpeace

Oscar-winner Javier Bardem, was there for the announcement as a group of krill companies and NGOs made the announcement that the krill harvesting companies will voluntarily cease operations across wide areas around the Antarctic Peninsula, including buffer zones around breeding colonies of penguins, to protect Antarctic wildlife.

The decision goes back to a Greenpeace campaign to protect the Antarctic Ocean, which has received the unprecedented support of the majority of krill fishing companies operating in Antarctic waters. The move was announced at Greenpeace's Antarctic 360° event, attended by scientists and Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem, who joined Greenpeace’s expedition to the Antarctic in January 2018.

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). These companies are Aker BioMarine, CNFC, Insung, Pescachile and Rimfrost and ARK’s membership includes Norwegian, Chinese, Korean and Chilean operators.

‘ARK’s mission is to facilitate an industry contribution to an ecologically sustainable krill harvest,’ explained Kristine Hartmann, head of Aker BioMarine’s Transformation department and who holds overall responsibility for sustainability.

‘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. Today, we are moving forward with a pioneer initiative, implementing voluntary restricted zones for the krill fishery in the Antarctic Peninsula. We hope to help the scientists collect information which allows us to better understand the krill’s behaviour and the interactions of the fishery with other predators in the Antarctica.’

In dialogue with Greenpeace, these leading krill companies have committed to stop fishing in some of the identified ecologically sensitive areas recommended for protection. From 2020, these krill companies will observe a permanent closure of these areas, while continuing to support the process to create a vast protected area in the region. The companies have also pledged to support the scientific and political process for the creation of a network of large-scale marine protected areas in the Antarctic, including areas in which they currently operate.

‘Many animals, including penguins, seals and whales, depend upon krill in the Antarctic. For over 20 years the Conservation Biology group at BAS, has worked alongside the international community, tracking key species to identify favoured feeding areas at different times of year,’ stated Dr Phil Trathan OBE, Head of Conservation Biology at the British Antarctic Survey and Lead Ecological Adviser for the UK Delegation to CCAMLR.

‘This work underpinned the UK call, from 2016, for the Commission for CCAMLR to prohibit krill fishing in coastal zones adjacent to the Antarctic Peninsula, especially during the summer breeding season. CCAMLR has yet to take such a step, so it is to be welcomed that the majority of krill companies have decided to take these voluntary steps. Ongoing work is still required to assess the risks associated with krill fishing practices, so I hope that these companies will be equally responsive as the science continues to develop.’

‘Through our commitment we are showing that it is possible for no-fish zones and sustainable fisheries to co-exist. Our intention with this commitment is to support CCAMLR’s work on establishing a network of large-scale science-based marine protected areas in the Antarctic,’ Kristine Hartmann said.

‘Safeguarding the Antarctic ecosystem in which we operate is part of who we are. Our ongoing dialogue with ARK members, scientists and the community of environmental NGOs, including Greenpeace, is what makes additional efforts like this possible. We are positive that ARK’S commitment will help ensure krill as a sustainable and stable source of healthy omega-3s for the future.’

Antarctic scientists are drawing up the technical plans for marine protected areas in the Antarctic Ocean, one of which is expected to cover around 1.8 million square kilometres in the Weddell Sea. The final decision will be taken by CCAMLR in October 2018, when it convenes in Tasmania.

Source: Aker BioMarine