Since 2011, the Institute of Marine Research has annually conducted Antarctic krill and ecosystem monitoring surveys at South Orkney Islands.
The Institute of Marine Research carries out these annual surveys to measure the condition of the krill biomass over time and provide information to understand population dynamics, impact of environmental change, and potential effects on other components of this ecosystem.
“The understanding for how Antarctic krill stocks change temporarily, especially at larger spatial scales, is very limited. However, small spatial scaled krill monitoring programs provide valuable year-to-year biomass and demography indices which can be used to answer some questions about change in the krill stock,” says Dr. Bjørn A. Krafft, Principal Scientist at Institute of Marine Research.
Since 2011, Aker BioMarine has volunteered its krill harvesting vessels for the research purposes. For the seven years the survey has been carried out, the krill biomass has shown a stable trend line with neither increase nor decrease in the biomass.
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The Norwegian effort in the South Orkney region (48.2) was originally financed with a five year prospective. Due to the importance of the survey monitoring the health and demography of the krill biomass, the Norwegian krill harvesting industry has offered to continue this cooperation as long as they harvest krill in the Southern Ocean.
According to members of the scientific community that help the 24 national members of CCAMLR regulate the krill fishery, extrapolation from these local monitoring programs provide conservative estimates of the regional biomass in recent years. Their calculations suggest that fishing within the current management system of CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) would be equivalent to a long-term exploitation rate (annual catch divided by biomass) of <7%, which is below the 9.3% level considered appropriate to maintain the krill stock and support krill predators (Hill et. al. 2016).
For the third year in a row, the krill fishery in the Antarctic received an “A” rating from The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) after analyzing 20 of the most significant fisheries used for the production of fishmeal or fish oil. Only 2.2 percent of the total catch volume of the reduction fisheries in this analysis came from stocks where the biomass was deemed to be in “very good condition” and this corresponds to a single fishery: Antarctic krill - Atlantic Southern Ocean.
New capacity for research and exploration
In 2018, Aker BioMarine will yet again participate in the research survey by offering its newly acquired krill vessel “Juvel”, which is not critical to the company’s harvesting and production operations.
“However small the catch is compared to the estimated biomass, it will always be a priority of Aker BioMarine to spread out the fishery to ensure the wellbeing of the Antarctic ecosystem,” says Cilia Holmes Indahl, Director Sustainability in Aker BioMarine.
One of the ways Aker BioMarine is doing this is through the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies (ARK) that currently represents 85% of the total krill catch. Aker BioMarine manages to balance between spear-heading sustainability in its industry and sharing best-practices with the company’s peers.
Aker BioMarine believes in win-win partnerships and has established The Antarctic Wildlife Research Fund (AWR) together with WWF-Norway and the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC). AWR’s mission is to promote and facilitate more research on the Antarctic ecosystem.
In 2017, Aker BioMarine renewed its commitment to Antarctic Research with an annual contribution of 200,000 USD to AWR.