Careful management is dependent on careful monitoring, says Dr. So Kawaguchi, one of the top scientists monitoring the Antarctic krill fisheries. “CCAMLR operates a Scheme of International Scientific Observation, designed to gather and validate scientific information essential for assessing the impact of fishing on target species populations, as well as those of related and dependent species.
Until [the 2009-2010] fishing season, the krill fishery was the only fishery in the CCAMLR Area that did not have mandatory deployment of scientific observers, although some member nations undertook this voluntarily,” Kawaguchi says.
“The rationale behind arguments for voluntary scientific observation (rather than mandatory) for krill was that current catches are small in relation to the precautionary catch limits, and there has been no stated intention to increase krill catches dramatically in the near future. But this reasoning is no longer valid, as a number of nations are now showing renewed interest in the krill fishery and there was a significant rise in krill fishery notifications in 2008.
"CCAMLR has now agreed to a mandatory observer system [for krill ships]," Dr. Kawaguchi said. In the 2010-2011 season, 50 percent of the nine vessels licensed to fish for krill will be required to have scientific observers to ensure the catch limits are not exceeded. The vessels include three from Norway, two from China, and one each from Korea, Japan, Poland and Russia. The data collected will help CCAMLR determine what the levels and the design of scientific observation and monitoring should be to achieve the objectives of CCAMLR in the future.
Certain conservation groups have voiced concern over the introduction several years ago by Aker Marine of Norway, of a more efficient trawling technology to increase its ability to harvest Antarctic krill and produce krill oil from the catch, Aker claims that the technology allows for a a more ecologically sound way to harvest. The World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace sent letters to CCAMLR outlining their concerns, among which were that Aker’s pumping method may have an impact on fish larvae. Greenpeace has proposed a strict "Polar Code" for the increasing number of ships traversing the waters of the Antarctic, that addresses would mandate environmental and safety standard for all ships.
Neptune Technologies and BioRessources and Azantis, the other two major krill oil suppliers, have long agreed and attested to the sustainability of their harvesting and processing methods.
In addition, in November of 2010, CCAMLR adopted further measures proposed by the European Union to increase observer coverage, centralize vessel monitoring via satellite, and improve the accuracy of catch reporting. These proposals were all based on scientific observation and advice.
An update: A new krill research project is getting underway featuring a partnership between Norwegian and Chinese researchers. Called “NorChiK,” the project will begin in February 2011 and last five years.
The project begins with two Norwegian researchers aboard the Sea Saga, a ship owned by Aker BioMarine, later followed by Chinese researchers. Researchers will focus on a near-shore area called South Orkney, one of three Antarctic zones where most krill is harvested, and they will track the feeding habits of penguins and seals, the most prodigious consumers of krill.
According to reporter Shane Starling of Nutraingredients (a Web-based industry news service), in 2010 Stony Brook University researchers found that near-shore waters have a higher biomass density of krill than offshore waters, and less variation year to year, making it ideal for the study.