Thursday, April 25, 2013
Now They're Coming for the Krill
People of the Pacific northwest know full well that krill are the foundation of our marine food chain. Krill process plankton. Krill feed the fish that feed the fish that feed the fish. We eat the fish that ate the fish that ate the fish that ate the krill. We're all connected. Even the humpback and other giant baleen whales would starve without their diet of rich krill.
Which is why it was alarming to read in Asia Times Online that giant fishing trawlers from Europe and Asia are now stalking krill in Antarctic waters.
Penguins are a protected species, but the factory-sized trawlers are vacuuming up the tiny shrimp-like krill that are their main food source. The Southern Ocean is also becoming increasingly acidic from emissions of fossil fuels and will have a significant impact on krill populations, yet efforts to create two marine protected areas
in the Southern Ocean have been blocked by China, Russia and Norway.
"The Southern Ocean is under increasing pressure from climate change and resource extraction, but areas such as the Ross Sea and East Antarctica are amongst the least impacted, healthiest, and most beautiful oceans in the world. They are one of the last remaining wildernesses on the planet and deemed a necessary ‘living laboratory' by scientists", said Onno Gross, a marine biologist and director of Deepwave, an ocean conservation NGO.
Of the world's 18 penguin species, 13 are now so threatened they need special protection. In the last few years, factory trawlers have made their way to the remote Southern Ocean to catch krill for the fast-growing trade to supply krill as fish meal for farmed salmon.
More recently, krill are being used to supply the booming health food and pharmaceutical markets for omega-3 three fatty acids believed to prevent heart disease and inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
I wonder how many of British Columbia's factory salmon farms use southern ocean krill? As though we need another reason to rid the coast of that scourge.