CLE: Solutions to Protect Antarctica’s Keystone Species
PEW Charitable Trust
At the heart of Antarctica’s Southern Ocean lives a tiny creature that must be protected: krill.
Without these small crustaceans, charismatic Antarctic predator species such as penguins, seals, and whales could not survive.
Not only are krill responsible for supporting Antarctica’s rich biodiversity, they are invaluable contributors to the fight against climate change.
But now, krill are facing severe threats from concentrated fishing and a warming planet—and we must act to protect this vital species.
That’s why members at this year’s meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) must complete the work agreed to in the 2019 krill scientific work plan and adopt a new conservation measure that will:
Ensure a healthy krill population
Secure a sustainable krill fishery over time
Help ensure thriving Antarctic predator populations
The commission has the power and responsibility to uphold its mandate for conservation and protect the Southern Ocean’s most important species. (See the full list of recommendations.)
To learn more about CCAMLR, check out this short video.
Why Do Krill Matter?
Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) may be small, but they play a vital role in supporting the Southern Ocean ecosystem.
Antarctic krill make up the largest krill population globally, estimated at 400 million metric tons.Source: Polar Perspectives no. 5
These thumb-size creatures form the base of the Antarctic food web, sustaining predator species such as penguins, seals, and blue whales—which can eat several metric tons of krill a day.
Krill provide 96% of calories for seabirds and mammals in the Antarctic Peninsula.
Krill also play a critical role in the fight against climate change in the Southern Ocean.
Antarctic krill annually store the equivalent of carbon produced by 35 million cars.
Here’s how: Krill feed on carbon-capturing algae near the surface of the water.
Their carbon-filled waste drops to the bottom of the Southern Ocean, contributing to one of the largest regional ocean sinks for atmospheric CO2.
Check out this short video to see how it all works:
Unfortunately, Antarctic krill and their predators are currently under threat because of concentrated fishing and a warming climate.