Thursday, November 5, 2009

Save the Krill, Save the Penguins

For the past two weeks, ASOC campaigners have been working hard at the annual meeting of the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living resources (CCAMLR). CCAMLR is the body that manages fisheries in the Southern Ocean, and its management of the krill populations is particularly critical. Krill stocks are declining just as improved technology and a growing market for nutritional supplements are making the species more interesting to fishers. This year, ASOC delegates were urging that the krill catch be divided geographically even though it has not reached the size that CCAMLR previously decided would warrant such a division. The reason the catch needs to be divided further is that local depletions of krill can directly impact krill predators that forage nearby. Making sure that fishing vessels don't all target the same area makes it less likely that penguins, whales and seals will be affected by the catch.

A lot of companies that produce krill oil often note that the size of the krill catch is small compared to the estimated krill population. However, as mentioned local depletions can have a big impact, and as krill populations continue to decline hard choices may have to be made. As in, do penguins deserve life even if it means someone can't purchase a cheap nutritional supplement of dubious effectiveness (the American Heart Association doesn't recommend fish oil supplements for people without heart disease)? I know which one I'd rather have.

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