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Over-fishing no threat to krill harvest, says industry

By Mike Stones , 13-Oct-2009
Last updated the 14-Oct-2009 at 13:06 GMT

Krill harvesting in the Southern Ocean is sustainable, despite fears that super swarms of the tiny crustaceans could lead to over fishing, claim two companies which rely on krill to make omega-3 rich nutraceutical products.

Earlier this week, Dr Geraint Tarling of the British Antartic Survey warned that super swarms of trillions of krill could make the species vulnerable to over-fishing. “Focusing on large swarms can have a much larger effect on the environment that you would predict,” he told BBC Earth News. Fishing out just a few huge super swarms may remove the majority of krill living in the entire ocean, he added.

But Dr Tarling’s views were disputed by biotechnology company Aker BioMarine. Its spokesman told NutraIngredients.com: “Estimates of krill biomass vary from 100 to 800m tonnes but less than one per cent of that (lower level) is harvested each year.”

Dent in the biomass

Regardless of the size of krill shoals, regulatory and physical constraints make it impossible for human harvesting to endanger the population. “Six vessels are licensed to harvest a limited amount of krill in the Antarctic Ocean and they can only do so between January and August (when the sea is clear of ice). That allows stocks time to recover. So we are not making a big dent in the biomass,” he said.

Meanwhile, Israel biotechnology company Enzymotec also claimed that its krill harvesting policy is sustainable. Speaking before Dr Tarling’s warning, Neta Scheinman, the company’s director of Quality Assurance said: "Our GMP (good manufacturing practice) policy with regard to krill supply is that we control both the quality and the sustainability of our krill so that we can guarantee that it is harvested under strict regulations and can not…directly or indirectly, harm the sensitive ecosystem of the Antarctic Ocean.”

The company said it had tightened its policy recently and now inspects and verifies that each shipment is harvested within the limits of the zone and dates for which the specific fishing vessels had received its fishing license from the regulatory body.

Ecosystem

The fishing of krill, a key species in its ecosystem. is regulated by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

Enzymotec’s largest krill oil distributor in North America, Azantis underlined the importance of sustainable krill harvesting. Its president, John Schoonbrood said: “We welcome Enzymotec’s initiative to be good stewards of the Antarctic ecosystem for human consumption.”

Protecting this rich biomass is not only of paramount importance to the Antarctic wildlife; it is also vital for heart, brain and joint health of millions today,“ said Schoonbrood. “We must use this natural resource wisely, so that there will be endless abundance for all of us, and for endless generations to come.”

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