Environmental Policy News

Chinese Group Plans to Expand Antarctic Krill Fishing Operations

According to various sources, including Andrew Darby in the Sydney Morning Herald, China has declared plans for an unprecedented expansion of fishing for Antarctic krill, the crustacean at the heart of the polar food web. Krill underpin the survival of Antarctic marine life including whales, seals, penguins, seabirds and fish. China plans a seven-fold expansion in their annual catch.

Speaking to a Chinese government-owned newspaper, Chairman Lui Shenli of the China National Agricultural Development said, “Krill provides very good quality protein that can be processed into food and medicine.”

Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition senior adviser Rodolfo Werner said it was worrying that China's plan would lead to more krill being taken than the commission was able to manage and monitor.

Speaking to ECO Magazine, Dr. Roger Hewitt (National Marine Fisheries Service, La Jolla, California) said, “Equally important to how many krill are harvested is where they are harvested. This is because a large portion of krill productivity is consumed by land-breeding predators such as pygoscelid penguins and fur seals. During the breeding season these animals act as central-place foragers; that is, they cannot stray far from their breeding sites without endangering their young. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) has in place procedures to reduce the competition between human and natural krill predators, which have been agreed to by all member nations. My hope is that this rational approach to expanding the fishery will not be trumped by politics.”

The Morning Herald reports that China has the largest fleet authorized to fish for krill in the Antarctic, with eight 5000 to 7000-ton factory freezer trawlers. Its agricultural group controls the country's largest high-seas fishing fleet. However, any increase in krill quotas would have to go before the Hobart-based, 25-nation Antarctic CCAMLR.

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