The beautiful Antarctic landscapes have become the scene of industrial smoke stacks from trawlers and commercial krill fishing ships. Global fishing for krill may be harmful to the endangered blue whale. The total commercial haul of krill around the globe totals between 165,346 to 220,462 tons yearly. The huge krill fishing ships measure from approximately 100 to 135 meters in length. In addition to Japan, Korea, Norway, and China are all large commercial krill fishing countries.
Blue whales are located in the Arctic, Antarctic, Pacific and Atlantic. The blue whale diet, which is rich in protein, consists mostly of krill. Krill congregate in dense populations from 1,000 to 100,000 per cubic meter. While this is a survivor mechanism that confuses many predators, the densely packed krill is perfect for the blue whale.
The throat of the blue whale is designed with longitudinal pleats that extend down near the naval. The pleats allow the whale to gulp huge quantities of ocean water laden with krill. The ocean water is then expelled through the whale’s baleen plates.Researchers estimate a full grown blue whale to eat approximately six million krill per day. The scientists believe the whales feast eight months of the year and live off fat or blubber reserves for the remaining four months.
A small percentage of the commercially caught krill are for human consumption. In Japan, krill is known as okiami. The Japanese serve the salty tasting krill tail meat in entrees, salads and soups. The majority of the commercial krill is utilized as aquarium feed, bait for sport fishing and by pharmaceutical companies. Pharmaceutical companies advertise the advantage of krill oil for the immune system and joints. Krill is also found in many packaged dog food brands.
Fishing for krill is regulated by the Commission for the Conservation Antarctic Marine Living Resources. The commission set regulations in place guiding krill fishing in 1993. The Marine Stewardship Council awarded Aker-BioMarine a stamp of approval to continue krill fishing. The council awarded Aker-BioMarine for embracing certain ecological principals including environmental impact of the fishery, health of the stock and traceability.
How can Aker-BioMarine be awarded by the Marine Stewardship Council when scientists believe the numbers of endangered blue whales have not increased since 1993 because the environment cannot support larger numbers? Aker-BioMarine and other krill fisheries are stealing the blue whale’s food source and receiving a pat on the back to perform the deed legally by the Marine Stewardship Council. Aker-BioMarine may technically operate within legal guidelines, but is krill fishing not morally wrong?
*Royalty free photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.