Pew Bertarelli: Timeline for Krill Conservation Measures Confirmed

Officials propose new Antarctic marine protected area but offer no new Southern Ocean protections

HOBART, Australia—The Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project today praised delegates from 26 nations and the European Union for marking progress toward harmonizing an updated krill fishery management plan with Southern Ocean protections along the Antarctic Peninsula.

This conservation win came at the close of the 42nd annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), part of the Antarctic Treaty System and the governing body responsible for protecting Southern Ocean wildlife.

Taking another positive step toward enhancing protections for krill, CCAMLR renewed Conservation Measure 51-07, which distributes the annual krill catch into four different areas around the Antarctic Peninsula, while the Scientific Committee worked to harmonize the designation of the Antarctic Peninsula MPA (D1MPA) and implementation of an updated ecosystem-based krill fishery management approach, including by committing to hold a symposium in July 2024. Tethering these two krill conservation efforts allows CCAMLR to fulfill its mandate to prevent irreversible impacts on the Southern Ocean ecosystem from human activities such as fishing. Over the past decade, industrial krill fishing has become increasingly concentrated in areas along the Antarctic Peninsula, affecting predators that feed in those same areas. Harmonizing the updated krill management with the D1MPA designation will ensure the catch limits in some of the most important areas for krill predators—including penguins, seals, and rebounding populations of Southern Ocean whales—are spread out in space and time, which will minimize negative impacts in those areas.

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

“With the agreement to couple the designation of the MPA in the Antarctic Peninsula with updated krill fishery management, members will ensure that all of the critical services krill provide to the planet, including carbon sequestration, remain intact, and that krill remain at a healthy population level so that predators can too.”

More good news came with Norway’s development and submission of a proposed Weddell Sea Phase 2 MPA that would cover areas in the region east of the prime meridian and complement a Phase 1 proposal, which spans areas in the western Weddell Sea. The new protections would cover approximately 720,000 sq km (278,000 square miles) and include two ecologically important areas: the Maud Rise and Astrid Ridge. This region is the source of nutrient upwellings that travel through currents to feed ocean life around the globe, as well as home to a large population of Antarctic krill that supports local populations of important predators such as penguins, petrels, and seals. Norway’s Phase 2 proposal shows that CCAMLR members remain committed to establishing a representative network of MPAs around the continent.

Members also agreed to hold a transshipment—transferring catch between vessels while at sea— workshop in 2024 focused on changes needed to close loopholes in krill fishery management that could be masking illegal fishing.

Although there was incremental conservation progress, the meeting marked the eighth time in seven years that CCAMLR failed to designate any additional Southern Ocean MPAs.

Kavanagh added, “What’s disappointing is the lack of action to establish the network of MPAs that CCAMLR committed to in 2011. We learned that 9,000 emperor penguin chicks likely died during the 2022 breeding season due to early sea ice melting in the Antarctic. In addition, Antarctica in spring 2022 had the lowest sea ice season ever recorded and scientists say this year could be on an even worse trajectory. Scientists say it would take only two additional years of massive die-off events for emperor penguins to become extinct. Although MPAs will not stop climate change, they will help provide resilience to the Southern Ocean ecosystem. CCAMLR has delayed MPA designations for seven years. How many more seasons like this will continue without any action by CCAMLR?  It is clear that members are requiring less science to keep fisheries open than they are to secure protections that are badly needed to protect this spectacular region and the animals that call it home.”

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

Dona Bertarelli, philanthropist, ocean advocate, and Patron of Nature for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said:

“The Southern Ocean is essential to a healthy planet, but protection efforts have been slowed and weakened by national interests. Our rapidly changing climate demands that countries work together to prioritize marine protection. Nature cannot wait for countries to settle their political differences. Without protection for large areas of the Southern Ocean and new fisheries measures, we will all suffer the consequences.”

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The Pew Charitable Trusts and Dona Bertarelli created the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project, with the shared goal of establishing the first generation of ecologically significant, large, and effective MPAs around the world. Today, the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project also seeks to connect MPAs and help conserve key migratory species and entire marine ecosystems. These efforts build on more than a decade of work by Pew and the Bertarelli Foundation, led by Dona Bertarelli, to create large-scale highly or fully protected MPAs. Between them, they have helped to obtain designations or commitments to safeguard nearly 12.6 million square kilometers (4.8 million square miles) of ocean by working with communities, local leaders, philanthropic partners, Indigenous groups, government officials, and scientists. Dona Bertarelli is a philanthropist, investor, sportswoman, and strong advocate for ocean conservation. The Pew Charitable Trusts addresses the challenges of a changing world by illuminating issues, creating common ground, and advancing ambitious projects including the need for effective marine conservation.

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