by Ashley Avci – Operation Krill campaigner

Antarctic krill head (Euphausia superba)Antarctic krill head (Euphausia superba)It was only one month ago that the largest mass whale stranding in history befell. Currently listed as endangered on The IUCN Red list of Threatened Species, 337 sei whales lay dead within a remote inlet in Patagonia, Southern Chile. Marine scientists claim that the rapid warming of the world’s oceans are killing off the whale’s main food source – krill.

Although the incident broke a new record, it seems that startling environmental disasters are now all too common. Whales sightings are becoming less awe-inspiring and more disturbing as marine biologists report visuals of sickly, malnourished and parasite- riddled whales, rather than the happy and healthy whales people expect to see. Whales, penguins, seabirds and seals are just some of the key species that depend on krill as a food source. In fact, nearly all life in the Antarctic is directly or indirectly reliant on krill. Whales travel thousands of miles just to feast on krill in the Antarctic; they are crucial for the whales’ migration to warmer waters, in order to rear their young.

This tiny bioluminescent sea creature is actually the foundation upon which all Antarctic marine life depends. Meaning that if krill were removed from the Antarctic ecosystem, the region would dramatically change or cease to exist altogether.

Asides from the colourful krill characters, ‘Will and Bill’, portrayed in ‘Happy Feet 2’, krill have been undervalued and often left without a mention in mainstream media. Unfortunately, krill have skyrocketed into vitamin-stardom through profit-driven companies that are investing millions into marketing krill as a sustainable source of omega-3. What these companies are failing to disclose to consumers is that there is no evidence that krill fishing is sustainable. Approximately 90% of the krill catch is used as fish feed or put into pet food, and there is overwhelming evidence that krill fishing has adverse effects on the environment and marine predators.

Antarctic krill populations have crashed by more than 80% since the mid-70s and as a consequence, penguins too are in decline. If any other species on the planet had their numbers wiped out by up to 80%, that species would be deemed endangered by the IUCN and there would be a worldwide rally to protect it. Any talk of sustainable harvesting would not be even entertained, to give the species a chance to recover.

An Antarctic Weddell seal. Krill makes up an important part of their diet. Photo:Tim WattersAn Antarctic Weddell seal. Krill makes up an important part of their diet. Photo:Tim WattersMuch of the krill harvesting also happens close to the continent, this means the occurrence of localised depletion, meaning penguins may have to search harder to feed and whales used to a certain area, will have to look elsewhere.

Companies such as Blackmores are profiting from the destruction of the Antarctic and are taking food from the mouths of hungry marine animals. So far, Blackmores has refused to protect the Antarctic by removing krill products from their shelves. Krill is a vital part of these animals’ diet. Whales don’t have a choice, but you do. This krill-pill-mania needs to be stopped in its infancy before it’s too late. At the end of the day, we don’t need to eat krill, but the whales do, they have no alternative.

Operation Krill is the first of it’s kind in Australia: you can support the campaign by pledging to be krill-free and joining 10,000 + people who have already signed our petition. Be a voice for the Antarctic by asking Blackmores to remove krill supplements from their shelves today.

For more information, sharing of success stories or advice on the prospective removal of krill products, please contact: Ashley@seashepherd.org.au

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