Two supertrawlers have been documented trawling right through a megapod of over 100 fin whales, who are listed as vulnerable, whilst fishing for krill off the South Orkneys in Antarctica.
The shocking footage was recorded as part of a new collaborative campaign between the Bob Brown Foundation and Sea Shepherd Global.
Hobart-based Alistair Allan, the Bob Brown Foundations (BBF) Antarctic and Marine Campaigner, joined the voyage as part of the Foundations ongoing campaign to ban krill fishing in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.
The Bob Brown Foundation and Sea Shepherd Global have a long history of working together to successfully shut down whaling in the Southern Ocean.
Krill, a small shrimp-like crustacean that forms the bedrock of the entire Antarctic ecosystem, is the primary food source for baleen whales and penguins, with most marine life in Antarctica either directly dependent on krill as food source or no more than one step or two steps removed.
The voyage focuses on the heavily concentrated fishing of krill around the South Orkney Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. This concentrated fishing effort is having a serious impact on the Antarctic ecosystem, especially penguins, seals, and whales, as they compete with these supertrawlers for their food source.
The campaign comes at a time where scientists are increasingly raising the alarm over the impact of the krill fishery. A recent Stanford University study revealed four large fishing vessels trawling through a supergroup of over 1,000 fin whales chasing the same krill, illustrating the growing conflict between whales and the fishery.
Upon arriving at the South Orkney islands, the mission has already had both Chinese vessels, the Shen Lan, and the Long Fa, immediately recover their fishing gear and began to run from the fishing grounds.
The mission also has already documented the intense conflict between whales and these trawlers as both the Antarctic Endeavour and the Sejong where seen trawling through a group of over 100 fin whales.
Norwegian company Aker BioMarine, the largest krill fleet operator, responsible for 60% of the global catch, were also in the South Orkneys and sighted fishing amongst penguins and whales.
“The two supertrawlers made no effort to avoid the megapod of vulnerable fin whales, in fact it looked as if they deliberately trawled through them, knowing that where there is whales, there is krill” said Alistair Allan, BBF Antarctic campaigner.
“This shows that incidents like the one published in the Stanford University study, are not isolated events. There is a huge and growing conflict between whales and supertrawlers in the Antarctic.”
“Krill is the foundation of the of the Antarctic ecosystem. They deserve total protection, not supertrawlers hoovering them out of the ocean.”
“Arriving at the krill fishing grounds there has been abundant amounts of penguins and whales, it’s terrible to see these animals competing with 130-metre long supertrawlers for their food.”
“Unbelievably, krill is caught for products we do not need. It is used for fish farm feed to make fish flesh pink, pet food, and supposed health products. It does nothing to contribute to global food security. It’s a crime against nature.”
“With a rapidly warming Southern Ocean, it Is predicted that krill hatch rates may reduce by as much as 50% by the year 2100. That’s a 50% loss of the species that all the whales, seals, and penguins we love, rely on to survive. It’s time to ban krill fishing in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.”
“The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), headquartered in Hobart, should act immediately to outlaw this destructive industry before whole Antarctic ecosystems begin to collapse.” said Dr Bob Brown