London, UK – A new Greenpeace investigation has tracked the activities of the little-known krill fishing industry in the Antarctic over the last five years, to expose the environmental risks of this fast-growing industry in one of the world’s most pristine regions.

This fishing industry is targeting tiny shrimp-like krill — one of the most important species in the Antarctic food web, eaten by everything from blue whales to Adélie penguins — to be sold in products such as krill oil and Omega-3 tablets, as well as fishmeal for farmed fish and even pet food. But despite presenting itself as one of the best managed fisheries in the world, Greenpeace International’s new report Licence to Krill: The little-known world of Antarctic fishing, paints a different picture.

The report reveals:

  • Intensive fishing taking place in the immediate vicinity of feeding grounds of Antarctic wildlife such as whales and penguins, creating direct competition for food.
  • Tracking data suggests vessels have anchored close to specially protected areas, despite the potential impact on wildlife and the seafloor.
  • Activities suggesting risky fishing practices such as transhipment (transfer of catch) to huge reefers with long lists of previous infringements, such as poor safety records and low standards in pollution prevention from both sewage and oil. Transhipment globally has often been linked to environmental and labour rights abuses due to the lack of transparency it affords.
  • The potentially devastating impact of fuel spills, fires and groundings and from these vessels in pristine Antarctic waters.

Frida Bengtsson of Greenpeace’s Protect the Antarctic campaign said:

“The krill fishing industry in the Antarctic presents itself as purer than snow – but the real story is a murky one of vessels fishing from the bottom of the food chain near the feeding grounds of whales, penguins and other animals. They’re waging a tug-of-war for food with animals in the region, in an area already struggling with change. Climate change is impacting on krill numbers and Antarctic wildlife shouldn’t have to be directly competing for food with trawlers just so these companies can sell health pills on the other side of the world.

“If the krill industry wants to show it’s a responsible player, then it should be voluntarily getting out of any area which is being proposed as an ocean sanctuary, and should instead be backing the protection of these huge swathes of the Antarctic.”

Greenpeace is calling on the krill fishing industry to immediately cease all fishing activities in areas under consideration for protection by the Antarctic Ocean Commission and for all businesses buying krill-derived products to stop sourcing from vessels that continue to fish in these same areas.

The report comes during a three-month Greenpeace expedition to the Antarctic. The expedition has undertaken landmark scientific research and is raising awareness of the need for ocean sanctuaries in the Antarctic, including a 1.8 million square kilometre Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary in the Weddell Sea. Greenpeace is also supporting proposals for protection of the Antarctic Peninsula and elsewhere, as part of a campaign to create a network of ocean sanctuaries covering at least 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030.



Read the full report here: Licence to Krill: The little-known world of Antarctic fishing

Over 1 million people globally have already backed the call for the creation of an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary covering 1.8 million square kilometres.

Frida Bengtsson is a senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace Nordic.

Photo and video:

Pictures from Greenpeace’s Antarctic expedition, including images of krill fishing vessels can be found here:

Media contacts:

Luke Massey, Protect the Antarctic Global Communications Lead, Greenpeace UK: [email protected], +44 (0) 7973 873 155

Greenpeace International Press Desk: [email protected], +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)