WWF to address krill sustainability at Vitafoods Europe

WWF to address krill sustainability at Vitafoods Europe

The sustainability of krill will come under the spotlight at the Vitafoods Europe trade show in Geneva next month, at a presentation by the conservation director for WWF Norway.

Nina Jensen will speak on the hot topic for the nutritional lipids industry on behalf of Acer Biomarine on Tuesday 10th May.

Acer and WWF Norway have been working together on sustainable krill harvesting and management in the Antarctic Ocean, with the aim of ensuring future harvesting is consistent with sustainable practices.

Krill are marine plankton at the bottom of the food chain. While they are eaten by larger fish, they are also rich in phospholipids and omega-3 and have emerged a as a resource of interest for human nutrition.

Aker received Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification that backs the environmental sustainability of its krill harvesting methods in 2010.

At the time Jensen drew attention to the good practices in place at Aker: 100 per cent observer coverage, vessel monitoring system (VMS), real-time reporting procedures, science and research contributions by allowing onboard scientists at no cost, and economic participation in establishing a science fund.

However Aker’s MSC certification has not been without controversy. In May 2010 the US-based Pew Environment Group criticised MSC over the certification because it said it sends a false signal about a fishery it believes requires further data verifying its sustainability.

Latest data

In the wider krill sector sustainability arguments are based on data from the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which sets krill catch quotas and places scientific observers onboard all nine vessels licensed to harvest krill in the Antarctic, and has Greenpeace backing.

Speaking at an omega-3 conference in Bruges, Belgium, last month, British Antarctic Research’s Simeon Hill noted current yearly catches of 210,000 tonnes was 34 per cent of the trigger limit of 620,000 tonnes, a level established to minimise environmental risk, although Hill called for ongoing spatial, population, environmental and harvesting research.

But data to hand indicated that current activity was “probably sustainable”.

In particular, he said more research was needed into where krill populations are fished, as those in coastal areas may have greater influence on air-breathing predators such as penguins and seals than, for example, populations of fish and whales further out to sea.

The 620,000 tonne trigger figure itself represents 9.3 per cent of a precautionary catch level of 5.61 million tonnes, which projections indicate would affect the species ability to reproduce.

The total omega-3 rich krill biomass is estimated at 60.3 million tonnes.

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