Pew Bertarelli: Nations Agree on Much-Needed Update to Krill Fishery Management

Although no new marine protections were designated, agreement was reached to harmonize conservation efforts in the Antarctic Peninsula

Nations Agree on Update to Krill Fishery Management

Hobart, Australia—The Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project was pleased today as delegates from 26 nations and the European Union agreed to renew a krill fishery management measure while developing a new one that will further spread out the catch, closely monitor impacts on predators, and incorporate a proposal for an Antarctic Peninsula marine protected area (MPA) into the fishery’s management.

The renewed protections will maintain the current practice of spreading out krill fishing in the Antarctic Peninsula to reduce the impact of concentrated fishing on krill-dependent predators while a new regulation is developed. The new measure would be the first time in the heavily fished Antarctic Peninsula area that CCAMLR takes a holistic approach by developing the fishery’s management and an MPA proposal in harmony.

The decision came at the close of the 41st annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). As part of the Antarctic Treaty System, CCAMLR is the governing body responsible for protecting Southern Ocean wildlife.

In addition to the renewed temporary krill fishery catch measure, CCAMLR agreed to a new work plan to collect the data needed to monitor the fishery’s impacts on predators and krill, which is key to a new regulation that will protect against irreversible impacts on the ecosystem. These effects are expected to increase as climate change affects the region and krill fishing expands in the Antarctic Peninsula.

In contrast to the good news on members’ unanimous support for new krill protections, which will advance alongside the Antarctic Peninsula MPA proposal, the close of the meeting also marks the sixth consecutive year with no designation of Southern Ocean MPAs.

To protect this spectacular region and the species that rely on it, the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project and its partners are working with CCAMLR and its member governments to ensure effective fisheries management and to establish a network of large-scale MPAs around Antarctica.

The proposed MPAs for East Antarctica, the Antarctic Peninsula, and the Weddell Sea would protect 3.8 million square kilometers (1,467,188 square miles) of the Southern Ocean, making a significant contribution toward the goal of safeguarding 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030 while protecting the critical foraging and breeding grounds of species found nowhere else on the planet. The MPAs would also help ecosystems throughout the region build resilience to the changing climate.

CCAMLR Members agreed to host an additional meeting focused solely on MPAs in 2023—a meeting that Members and The Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project hope will give countries more time to focus specifically on the MPA issue. 

Dona Bertarelli, philanthropist, ocean advocate, and Patron of Nature for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said: “Though small in size, krill play an enormous role in underpinning the health of the Southern Ocean. The renewed fishing limits and commitment to advance scientific monitoring offer some positive news, but in order to truly safeguard these vital creatures and the health of Antarctica’s ocean, we need a designated network of marine protected areas.”

Andrea Kavanagh, director of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project’s Antarctic and Southern Ocean work, issued the following statement:

“The importance of krill in the Southern Ocean cannot be overstated. With the renewal of the krill conservation measure and the commitment to a new, more precautionary approach that incorporates the Antarctic Peninsula MPA, CCAMLR has shown that it agrees. These new management tactics will preserve the region’s rich biodiversity while CCAMLR completes additional work to ensure that enough krill remain in the water for all the wildlife that depend on it, such as penguins, whales, and seals.

But while the krill conservation measure is a good first step, new evidence underscores that the best precautionary approach to Southern Ocean conservation couples ecosystem-based fishery management and marine protected areas.

“At this year’s meeting, CCAMLR celebrated the grim milestone of being 10 years past its own deadline for designating a Southern Ocean network of MPAs. During this decade of inaction, a growing body of science has repeatedly emphasized the need for conservation action in the Antarctic. We’ve learned more about the dire state of global biodiversity, including extinction threats for emperor and chinstrap penguins. And we’ve seen reports that Earth’s ice-covered regions are on the front lines of the climate emergency.

“CCAMLR now needs to make good on its 2011 commitment and start adding MPAs to the agreed-upon network. The world can’t afford to hear ‘no new marine protections in the Southern Ocean’ for one more year.

“We are pleased that countries agreed to host a special meeting on marine protected areas in 2023 and we encourage Russia and China to work with MPA proponents to finally designate the East Antarctic, Weddell Sea, and Antarctic Peninsula marine protected areas.”