The Antarctic krill new predators

Is krill the future of aquaculture ?

With over 7 billion people on the planet, food shortage is a major issue. Aquaculture is currently in vogue and by 1990 the technique was producing 17 million tonnes of marine product – mostly farmed fish. By 2010, aqua farming was providing 80 million tonnes of food*.

Salmon aquaculture farms, here in between the islets of Norway's West coast © Google Earth

Norway is one of the countries that heavily invested in this expanding and lucrative industry and in just a few years, salmon has become one of its main resources. In 1990, the country farmed 150,000 tonnes of fish. By 2010, production was 1 million tonnes!* Norway alone represents 40% of European aquaculture production. It has also become the world’s biggest krill fishing nation.

 

Krill is not yet the staple food for fish farms, but being considered as a natural colorant, its Astaxanthin gives the salmon a pink tinge and makes it a valuable food supplement. Given the size of its biomass and its nutritious qualities, there is a very high risk of krill moving from supplement to staple.

 

So far the challenge of catching krill has prevented this.

 

The small crustacean has a very fragile outer shell and when netted is easily crushed. Once crushed, the enzymes trapped in its digestive system putrefy the flesh so quickly that the product is ruined by the time the net is out of the water.

The technical evolution of continuous pumping invented by Norvegian engineers © Aker BioMarine

Norway implemented a solution to that problem between 2005 and 2007, using a system that sucks the shrimp out of the bottom of the net (while in the water) and straight into the vessel. This ingenious pumping mechanism means that krill is processed before the flesh breaks down while fishing continues apace.

 

In krill fishing circles, the pioneering tool increases profit, but is not without a downside: “Unlike the previous fishing system which made weighing the krill feasible, this system is on a continuous cycle and leaves a lot of margin for error,” explained Rodolfo Werner. “Currently we have CCAMLR catch limits and fishing boats declaring the size of their catch, but there is no precise way to measure this independently. Each boat has its own method and as far as the factory ships with the continuous pumps, well no one knows how they weigh their catch. It’s a bit of a mystery.”

* Source: FAO

Other files

  • Une mine sous-marine de la seconde guerre mondiale, à proximité de Saranda © Philippe Henry / OCEAN71 Magazine

    Albania : a journey to the unknown

    Culture5 chapters

    Our most recent expedition took us to Albania, a country with uncharted waters that was closed to the outside world for most of the 20th century and which is only just starting to reveal its secrets. The ‘Land of Eagles’ as it is known is allegedly peppered with smugglers and unexploded naval mines, but when we travelled to its shores we found a very different reality.






  • Video

    ORIKUM’S MYSTERIES

    Culture4 chapters

    Following a crew of Swiss and Albanian archaeologists, OCEAN71 Magazine went back to the antique village of Orikum, in Albania. This long-abandoned small port was a key location in Julius Caesar’s rise to absolute power. It’s not surprising that the scientists are amazed by the local discoveries. In this second season, the archaeologists will attempt to unravel the mysteries of this unique excavation site.






  • The secret side of piracy

    Economy, Geopolitics2 chapters

    In the last 10 years, piracy has made a come back. From Somalia and Nigeria to the Caribbean and far-flung Asian archipelagos men are capitalising on weak leadership of the State to seize commercial ships and private yachts for ransom. We decided to investigate the reasons for this resurgence and discovered a world and practices that are witnessed by the ocean alone.