The roots of the global krill fishery
Did you know that krill have the biggest biomass of any animal species on earth – twice as much as humans, and they’re present in all the oceans. However, it is only in Antarctica that they school in high enough densities to be caught commercially, so this is where the krill fishing industry has developed. The Soviet Union were the pioneers – during the 1960s they had over 100 krill fishing vessels and, up until the collapse of the state, we heard that they were canning cooked krill and feeding it to their troops.
How sustainable is the fishery?
The krill is harvested in a part of the Southern Ocean known as Region 48, off the coast of the Antarctic peninsula. Krill stocks in this region are thought to be roughly 60 million tonnes and a precautionary catch limit of 1% of the total biomass has been set by the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). However, currently only about 0.3-0.4% of the biomass is being caught annually, so it’s seen as being highly sustainable and there’s room to increase this over time.
Aker BioMarine is taking about 60% of that catch, which equates to 152,000 tonnes. We have two vessels fishing throughout the 8-9 month season, supported by a 170m transport vessel. The two vessels are tailored specifically for the krill fishery, which adds to their efficiency – the remaining 40% of the krill catch is landed by 10 vessels.