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The Antarctic krill fishery is the cleanest fishery in the world

The Antarctic krill fishery is the cleanest fishery in the worldNew science concludes that the Antarctic krill fishery is the cleanest fishery in the world due to its low bycatch rate

A new science paper, published in Fisheries Management and Ecology, concludes that the Antarctic krill fishery is the cleanest fishery in the world in terms of it’s extremely low bycatch rate. Observers collected registered bycatch data from the Antarctic krill fishery in the Southern Ocean during the 2010–2020 fishing seasons. They found that the total catch of Antarctic krill increased from 200,000 tons to 450,000 tons, with the greatest increase over the last 3years. Following an international method used to analyse such data, the observers found that the bycatch ratio (0.1–0.3%) was stable and well below other fishery bycatch levels.  

“Overfishing is a big problem across the world’s fisheries,” says Pål Einar Skogrand, VP Policy and Impact, Aker BioMarine, our premium member. “However, this new data is very positive and demonstrates how krill fisheries can operate sustainably by ensuring a healthy population of target as well as non-target species in its fishing area. The krill fishery’s low exploitation rate of the biomass, in conjunction with these new findings on the low bycatch, proves that the krill fishery operates well within ecosystem boundaries and is becoming a real model fishery on a global level.”  

Krill, an important marine resource

Krill is the world’s biggest biomass and the most underutilised marine resource. The enormous swarms of krill in the Southern Ocean are so dense they have been viewed high up above our earth’s atmosphere and can be seen from spaceOne key indicator to the healthy size of the krill mass is the growing abundance of whales and seals in Antarctica, which can be attributed to ample access to their main food sources, such as krill. The resurgent populations of these animals is a sign that they can thrive in fishing areas such as the Southern Ocean without an imbalance to the ecosystem.  

Furthermore, the regulatory body of the Antarctic fishery, the Commission for the Conservation of
Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), ensures a healthy krill stock by using a precautionary, ecosystem-based approach designed to prevent krill harvesting that will have a negative impact on a harvested species or other species in the ecosystem. CCAMLR has set a catch quota of less than 1% of the total biomass in the area regulated for fishing which makes it one of the most precautionary in the world. 

Eco Harvesting contributes to almost zero bycatch rates

Eco Harvesting is Aker BioMarine’s patented technology for continuous trawling. This technology ensures efficient and safe harvesting as the trawl is kept submerged under water for long periods at a time, compared to traditional trawling, where you haul up to ten times a day. When it comes to fisheries, hauling is regarded as high risk, specifically when the trawl is exposed and can lead to bycatch of non-target species and entanglement of birds. Eco Harvesting minimises this risk with lesser hauls. The system is also fitted with a mammal exclusion device and monitored by acoustic sensors ensuring mammals do not enter the trawl. 

 “At Aker BioMarine, our Eco-Harvesting technology helps us harvest krill in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way,” says Frank Grebstad, SVP Vessel Operations, Aker BioMarine. “The mammal exclusion device within our Eco-harvesting technology has most definitely played a role in the low bycatch numbers as it helps reduce the risk of bycatch. Our operating model on fishing ground allows us to fish the high-density krill aggregations, this is key to our strong bycatch record. If we were to chase the lower density krill swarms in Antarctica there would certainly be more bycatch of other species in the mix and the krill fishery would not be such a clean fishery.” 

“Antarctic krill is, and will remain, a novel part of the solution for our future food systems, adds Skogrand. 800 million people are depending on food from the ocean today, and by 2050 this number will double. This makes krill the world’s most abundant marine resource, not only an opportunity but a responsibility to utilise for health and nutrients. We already knew that the krill fishery is one of the best performing fisheries in the world in terms of ecosystem management, and this recent research indicates that it is also second to none in terms of how it actually operates and secures clean catches and low impact on the surrounding ecosystems. 

About Aker BioMarine 

Aker BioMarine was created because of our strong belief in the positive health effects of krill. More than a decade later, our business continues to grow because we take care of the ecosystem we harvest in. To us, it makes no sense to take something out of the ocean to improve our health, if it simultaneously compromises the health of the ocean. Ensuring the well-being of the krill biomass and contributing towards a thriving Antarctic ecosystem are among our core priorities.

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