Krill fishing industry back Antarctic ocean sanctuary

The creation of the world’s biggest ocean sanctuary, protecting a huge area of remote seas around Antarctica, is a step closer after major fishing firms came out in favour of the plan.

A global campaign – headed by Greenpeace and backed by over 1.7 million people – had put huge pressure on the krill fishing industry and retailers amid fears it was endangering one of the world’s last great wildernesses on earth, undermining the global fight against climate change.

That pressure seemed to have paid off when companies responsible for 85% of krill fishing in Antarctic waters announced a “voluntarily permanent stop” to their operations in key locations, including the proposed sanctuary and “buffer zones” around penguin breeding grounds.

“The momentum for protection of the Antarctic’s waters and wildlife is snowballing,” said Frida Bengtsson, of Greenpeace’s Protect the Antarctic campaign. “This is a bold and progressive move from these krill fishing companies, and we hope to see the remainder of the krill industry follow suit.”

Krill are small crustaceans that play a key part in the fragile Antarctic food chain. They feed on marine algae and are a vital source of food for whales, penguins and seals. They are also important in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by eating carbon-rich food near the surface and excreting it when they sink to deeper, colder water. NGO's have warned that industrial fishing and climate change is driving a sharp decrease in their numbers.

Rory Sinclair