Sydney, Australia, Oct 24 (EFE).- The annual meeting of the Commission for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), kicked off Monday in the Australian city of Hobart with a focus on the protection of the Antarctic krill.
The CCAMLR, which comprises the European Union and 26 countries, will review measures to conserve marine ecosystems in Antarctica, including the management of fisheries for krill, the international body said in a statement.
This small crustacean, used as aquaculture feed and fish bait and also as livestock food, is a vital food source for penguins and whales and is critical in the conservation of the Antarctic ecosystem.
Environmentalists say that industrial krill fishing, valued at about $250 million annually, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), sometimes lead to the death of whales who get caught in trawling nets.
According to WWF, krill are also critical in the fight against climate change as they take out carbon from the atmosphere when they perform photosynthesis.
When they excrete or moult their exoskeletons, this carbon sinks to the depths of the ocean.
These processes sink some 23 megatonnes of carbon annually.
A report released by the WWF last week said that krill in the Antarctic Peninsula and Scotia Sea delivered carbon storage services worth an estimated $15.2 billion per year.
“Antarctic krill are worth more to nature and people left in the ocean than removed,” WWF’s Antarctic Conservation Manager Emily Grilly said.
Since 2018, Argentina and Chile, both members of the CCAMLR, have proposed the protection of critical areas in the region to relieve some of the strains on marine life.
The proposal also calls for a ban on krill fishing in feeding grounds for penguins and other krill predators in the Antarctic peninsula’s two most biologically important areas: the Bransfield and Gerlache straits.
The plan also includes a large permanent no-fishing zone in the Bellingshausen Sea, which is an important spawning and nursing area for krill – sold for its high protein and omega-3 fatty acid content -, and calls for fully protecting important spawning and nursery habitats for commercially and ecologically valuable fish species, including toothfish, icefish, and silverfish.
Also up for discussion at the closed-door meeting, which is being held at the CCAMLR headquarters, will be the conservation of other species as well as the impact of fishing on marine mammals and seabirds and the elimination of illegal fishing.
The first week of the meet, which will conclude on Nov. 4, will include presentations by several scientific committees, while plenary sessions will take center stage in the second.
The Commission is expected to publish its report after the conclusion of the meeting.
The CCAMLR, instituted in 1982, is made up of Germany, Belgium, Brazil, China, South Korea, Ecuador, Spain, the United States, France, Holland, Italy, India, Japan, Namibia, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.
Acceding countries include Bulgaria, Canada, Finland, Greece, the Cook Islands, Mauritius, Pakistan, Panama, Peru and Vanuatu. EFE