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Aker BioMarine secures sustainable future for krill in the Antarctic Southern Ocean

The Aker BioMarine’s Antarctic krill fishery has been recertified against the world’s most robust standard for environmentally sustainable fishing.

A rigorous, third party assessment has shown that the Antarctic based fishery continues to meet the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) demanding standards. As a result, Aker BioMarine’s krill products, including krill oil, may continue carrying the MSC ecolabel, identifying their origin from a sustainable source.

In order to determine the sustainability of the fishery, a team of independent scientists and auditors considered all available science and reviewed the fishery’s management practices against the MSC Fisheries Standard. Their analysis confirms that Aker BioMarine is protecting the unique environment, habitats and species living in the Southern Ocean.

The fishery first achieved MSC certification in June 2010. All MSC certified fisheries must be completely reassessed within five years of certification. This reassessment showed that Aker BioMarine not only continues to operate to the highest standards of environmental sustainability, it has also improved its practices and knowledge in order to better manage the fishery.

Improving fishing practices

Over the last four years Aker BioMarine has delivered three requirements set as conditions of MSC certification.  This has resulted in improvements in data collection, better understanding of the fishery’s impacts on juvenile fish and measures to reduce the risk of localised depletion of krill.

As a result, the assessment team determined that no further conditions of MSC certification were required.

Camiel Derichs, Regional Director at the Marine Stewardship Council said: “The Aker BioMarine Antarctic krill fishery has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to ensuring the sustainability of its fishing practices. Its precautionary approach to catch levels, investments in science and actions to reduce bycatch mean that it is now one of the best performing fisheries in the MSC program. Passing reassessment with no conditions or reconditions is testament to this.”

The fishery also scored highly against the 31 individual criteria which form the MSC Fisheries Standard.

Precautionary catch levels

At current levels, Antarctic krill is one of the world’s most underexploited marine stocks. Since 1994, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) has set total allowable catch limits for the entire Antarctic. Recognising the need to protect krill populations, which are a vital source of food to other wildlife, CCAMLR has set trigger catch limits at one percent of the total estimated biomass (620,000 tonnes).

Current krill catch in the fishery area (CCAMLR Area 48) represents around 0.4% (212,000 tonnes) of the total krill biomass (60.3 million tonnes) and 34% of the trigger catch limit. At these rates fishing has a minimal impact on predators and other species in the food chain.


Protecting other species

Aker BioMarine has taken significant steps to protect other species living in the Antarctic Southern Ocean. This includes using a bespoke “Eco-Harvesting” method which has a fine mesh, monitored by underwater cameras, to prevent anything larger than krill being caught. Recent research shows that bycatch of juvenile species is around 0.2% of the total catch.

Investing in research

Aker BioMarine provides financial support to NGOs and scientific institutions. It has 100% observer coverage on all vessels and allows non-company scientists it use its on-board research platforms free of charge.  It also contributes five “science days” a year for independent research so that scientists can go to specific areas to document impacts that the fishery is having on krill and krill-dependent predators.

Stakeholder contributions

During the reassessment process, auditors, Food Certification International (FCI), ran a comprehensive consultation process, which included input from eNGOs, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries and the Institute of Marine Research.

Nina Jensen, CEO of WWF Norway said: “To be MSC certified, a robust management system must be in place, the impacts on the ecosystem must be minimal and the target species has to be in a good condition.

“As part of its environmental commitment Aker BioMarine has made a significant effort to reach out to the rest of the industry to communicate the importance of sustainability. Aker BioMarine also partners with various scientific entities to carry out important Antarctic ecosystem research. When buying krill oil, we encourage retailers and consumers to ensure that they products they buy and sell are certified by a credible independent third party, such as the MSC.”

Sigve Nordrum, Sustainability Director at Aker BioMarine said: “We are reassured that the scientific panel, after an in-depth review of the fishery, have concluded that Aker BioMarine’s krill fishery does not negatively impact the krill population, does not negatively affect the ecosystem and that the fishery is well managed.”

 “Receiving the MSC certification in 2010 was a milestone for Aker BioMarine. We are proud to be recertified from 2014-2020 with a high score and without any conditions. We appreciate that our clients and their customers take sustainability seriously, and that they demand MSC certification from their suppliers.”

Facts about krill

  • Krill (Euphausia superba), are tiny shrimp-like crustaceans, low in the food chain, that swarm in dense shoals. They are found particularly in Antarctic waters.
  • Krill are rich in Omega-3 phospholipids and the naturally occurring antioxidant Astaxanthin.
  • Krill is processed to form krill oil, sold as a liquid or in capsules for its health benefits.
  • Krill meal and oil is also used in aquaculture and animal feed.
  • CCAMLR estimates the biomass of krill in the southern Atlantic Ocean at 60.3 million tonnes.
  • According to the WWF, Antarctic krill is one of the world’s most underexploited marine stocks.
  • Fishing for krill started in the 1960s and peaked in the 1970s and 80s at around 500-600,000 MT/yr. Fishing now takes place at a lower rate of around 212,000 MT/yr (2012/13 figure).
  • Current catch represents around 0.4% total biomass available.
  • Krill populations fluctuate naturally depending on ice coverage, temperatures, sunlight and predation. These are thought to have a far greater impact on krill populations than fishing.

Further information

> Information about the Aker BioMarnie krill fishery

> Blog: Why krill fishing in the Southern Ocean is unlikely to become unsustainable

> The fisher's story: Aker BioMarine Antarctic krill