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Fishing Companies Halt Activities in Waters Proposed for Antarctic Sanctuary

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Weddell seals live around Antarctica and nearby islands. changehali / CC BY 2.0

The five companies responsible for 85 percent of krill fishing in Antarctica announced Monday that they would put a "voluntarily permanent stop" to fishing in vulnerable areas earmarked by conservationists for the world's largest ocean sanctuary, the Guardian reported.


Krill are an important food source for iconic Antarctic marine life like whales, seals and penguins. They also help fight climate change by eating carbon-heavy food near the ocean's surface and excreting it in deeper water, according to the Guardian.

"The momentum for protection of the Antarctic's waters and wildlife is snowballing," Frida Bengtsson of Greenpeace's Protect the Antarctic campaign told The Guardian. "This is a bold and progressive move from these krill fishing companies, and we hope to see the remainder of the krill industry follow suit."

The five companies make up the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting (ARK) and come from Norway, Chile, South Korea and China, AFP reported.

They said they would stop fishing in the coastal waters that Greenpeace and 1.7 million supporters want to see converted into a sanctuary and would also restrict fishing in "buffer zones" around penguin breeding sites, according to the Guardian.

The ARK also officially backed a proposal to create a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the waters around Antarctica, AFP reported.

"Our members agree that the industry must develop sustainably to ensure long-term viability of the krill stocks and the predators that depend on it," ARK said in a statement reported by AFP.

The ARK's decision comes after supporters of the sanctuary pushed retailers including Holland and Barret to stop selling supplements containing krill, the Guardian reported.

The fate of the sanctuary now rests in the hands of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which consists of 24 governments that manage Antarctic waters.

The CCAMLR passed a U.S.-and-New-Zealand-proposed sanctuary around the Ross Sea in 2016, but rejected a plan backed by Australia and France for a sanctuary in East Antarctica last year, AFP reported.

The EU proposed another area five times the size of Germany in the Weddell Sea last October, and Greenpeace launched its current campaign to support that proposal. The CCAMLR will vote on the proposal this October.

The Pew Charitable Trusts' Antarctic and Southern Ocean head Andrea Kavanagh hoped the krill companies' decision would inspire the governments to act.

"Governments should follow industry's lead and support MPAs," she told AFP.

World Wide Fund for Nature's (WWF) Antarctica program head Chris Johnson said it was important that the companies' voluntary action was backed up by enforceable laws.

"A comprehensive and effective network of marine protected areas surrounding the continent—which must include no-take marine sanctuaries—is essential for safeguarding biodiversity and improving sustainable fisheries," he told The Independent.


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