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

  • 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.






  • a recreated ancient wreck near Marseille © Francis Le Guen

    Underwater archeology: a dive amid cops and robbers

    Culture4 chapters

    According to UNESCO, there are around 3 million shipwrecks that sleep peacefully at the bottom of our seas and oceans. With the second largest marine area in the world, France has decided to go to war against the plunder of the remaining wrecks. But is it even possible? For almost a year, OCEAN71 Magazine led a lengthy investigation that took us at the heart of the French authorities and the ocean looters.






  • Hell in the Chagos heaven

    Ecology, Economy, Geopolitics5 chapters

    The Chagos archipelago. A name that sounds like the perfect place to spend the holidays. However, aside from the US army and a couple of privileged ones, the area is strictly forbidden. In one of the world well kept secrets, Great-Britain and the United States have conducted a large scale state scandal : 40 years ago, a small population of 2’000 people were simply forced to exile from their native land. To this day, they are still forbidden to return.