China intends to harvest more krill from the waters of Antarctica—a lot more.
The country harvests about 32,000 metric tons of krill a year and plans to go as high as 2 million metric tons annually. That has scientists very concerned.
“If they invest big money in their fishing fleets, it will push the system to relax the current catch limits,” said Rodolfo Werner, a marine scientist and adviser to Antarctic conservation groups.
Krill helps feed marine animals, such as whales and penguins. Antarctic krill are abundant, but many are concerned that krill fishing on a large scale is harming the food chain in the area.
Chinstrap and Adelie penguin populations in the West Antartic Peninsula have fallen more than 50 percent in the past 30 years. One study has linked the lower population to the decline in krill.
China harvests krill for products such as feed and supplements for its population of almost 1.4 billion.
The country still needs to gain the approval of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. But the commission is made up of countries with an interest in krill harvesting. Conservationists say the commission doesn’t act to conserve marine life enough.
Norway harvests the most krill around Antarctica at this time. China’s plans of 2 million metric tons a year is around seven times greater than the current harvest by all nations.