Our Renewed Antarctica Mission: Spotlight on the Industrial Krill Fishing Fleet
Wednesday, 11 Oct, 2023
Earlier this year, Sea Shepherd journeyed into Antarctica, unveiling the horrific reality of industrial krill fisheries. As 2024 looms, we are gearing up to return, more committed than ever to safeguard this fragile ecosystem.
In February 2023, Sea Shepherd's vessel, the Allankay, sailed into the frigid waters of the Antarctic to renew our commitment to protect the region and its diverse marine life. For over a decade, we fought to defend whales in Antarctica from the Japanese whaling fleet’s explosive-tipped harpoons. And thanks to our relentless passion and resolve, we won. We took on the toothfish poachers known as 'The Bandit Six', and we shut them down, too.
But there’s a different adversary in the Southern Ocean this time: industrial krill fisheries. We knew commercial trawlers have a vast and often devastating impact on the Antarctic’s marine ecosystem. Our intention was clear: capture this devastation red-handed and showcase it to the world. In a chilling encounter off the South Orkney Islands, we documented several super trawlers with their massive nets, plowing mercilessly through a megapod of over two hundred Fin whales who were feeding on krill. These images of industry competing with wildlife for the same animals to use as food were shared across the world, causing international outrage and calls for this industry to be shut down.
"The super trawlers made no effort to alter course. It even appeared as if they steered towards the spouting megapod deliberately, a sign that where there are whales, there is krill. And most shocking of all, it wasn't illegal to do so."Captain Peter Hammarstedt
These once remote waters are now frequented by massive supertrawlers from nations including Norway, China, Chile, Ukraine, and South Korea, all seeking krill to feed the aquaculture industry and to extract krill oil for health supplements and beauty products. These booming industries have doubled the human demand for krill in the last two decades, and if we don't act now, we'll have to contend with twice as many supertrawlers in the coming years.
But these tiny crustaceans are pivotal to the Antarctic ecosystem, a keystone species providing sustenance for various marine life, including whales, penguins, seals, and seabirds.
The warming oceans and receding sea ice already challenge Antarctic life. Add to this the pressure from industrial krill fisheries, and you have a recipe for ecological disaster. Marine wildlife like the Emperor Penguins, which have faced breeding failures for five years, might vanish within this decade. Similarly, Fur Seals have witnessed an 83% decline since 2007.
We are at a juncture where legislation needs to align with conservation. Sea Shepherd is resolute in its mission. As Captain Hammarstedt proclaimed, "When a fishing vessel is breaking the law, we can cut their nets and block their operations. But when it's operating legally, we must first change the law."
As 2024 approaches, we are preparing to return to the Antarctic, not just as observers but as defenders. We will once again illuminate the adverse impacts of industrial krill trawling and urge the world to demand changes to this damaging form of fishing. We hope you will join our fight, for as long as Antarctica needs us, Sea Shepherd will be there to protect it.