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Antarctic krill fishery achieves MSC certification

The Norwegian Olympic Seafood Antarctic krill fishery has achieved certification to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Fisheries Standard. Following the rigorous, third-party assessment, krill products from this fishery can now carry the blue MSC ecolabel. The krill from the fishery is mostly used for Omega 3 supplements and with a growing demand for fish oil products, the importance of sustainably sourced Omega 3 is increasing.

Sustainable krill fishing

Krill is a small crustacean and a cornerstone in the Antarctic ecosystem since it serves as food for whales, seals, penguins and other species. It is therefore essential that krill fishing is conducted in a sustainable way, informed by science and research.

Achieving the MSC certification demonstrates that the Olympic Seafood Antarctic krill fishery is operating to the highest standards of environmental sustainability in order to protect the unique ecosystems and species in the Southern Ocean. The management of the fishery is closely regulated by the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), established in 1982 with the objective of conserving Antarctic marine life.

Minimising impacts on the food chain

CCAMLR is widely regarded as the most precautionary of all organisations in terms of setting catch quotas. The total krill catch allowed in the fishery area (CCAMLR Area 48) represents just 1% (620,000 tonnes) of the population of krill (estimated at 62 million tonnes). Olympic Seafood currently catches around 3% (15,000 tonnes) of the 620,000 tonnes catch limit set by CCAMLR. By contrast it is estimated that predators eat at least 20 million tonnes annually (32% total krill biomass).  There are trigger levels set so that fishing cannot be too concentrated in one area. At these low rates fishing has a very minimal impact on predators and other species in the food chain.

Accounting for cumulative impacts

This is the second fishery for krill (Euphasia superba) that meet the world’s most robust standard for environmentally sustainable fisheries. The assessment of the Olympic Seafood fishery also considered impacts of other fishing activities on krill stocks in the area, to ensure that their cumulative impacts are sustainable.

MSC welcomes this well managed fishery into the program. “The MSC is delighted to welcome the second krill fishery in the program. Certification confirms Olympic Seafood’s sound environmental practices, assuring the fishery has minimum impacts in the Antarctic waters where it operates. The excellent management by CCAMLR means krill stocks remain in a near pristine state, and is exploited at extremely low levels.” said Camiel Derichs, European Director at the Marine Stewardship Council.

Eliminating bycatch

The fishery uses a trawl with a fine mesh panel across the entrance to prevent bigger fish from entering the main body of the net. Nets are also fitted with sea lion excluder devices which close the net entrance in order to prevent entanglement of marine mammals. As a result, bycatch of unwanted species is negligible and there is no effect or interaction between the fishery and endangered, threatened and protected species.

Growing demand for sustainable supplements 

Krill provides a high quality raw material for Omega 3 supplement products and most of the krill harvested by Olympic Seafood is used for krill meal and oil for human consumption. With the growing demand for Omega 3 supplements MSC welcomes sustainable choices coming in to the market:

”Consumers may not always make the link between Omega 3 supplements and the sea and species from which they originate. This certification will increase consumer awareness and challenge the wider Omega 3 industry on their sustainability credentials. This is welcomed and needed to drive improved environmental practices. Olympic Seafood is clearly one of the pioneers in this respect.” added Derichs.

The MSC ecolabel gives an assurance to consumers that the krill oil product they buy is originating from a sustainable fishery. For Olympic Seafood the assessment to the MSC Standard was an important step to work for a more sustainable future:

“We are very pleased to receive recognition of our hard work in Antarctica” said Bjørnar Kleiven, Managing Director at Olympic Seafood AS. “Since its inception, Olympic Seafood has been a driving force in ensuring good environmental management and responsible fishing in Antarctica. Environmentally sustainable management of krill resources is vital to our success. We see it as our duty to preserve the ecosystem and do this by using advanced and modern fishing methods. Our use of technology, knowledge and the newest vessel in the krill fishing fleet, mean that we are extremely well equipped to be innovators in sustainable fishing.”

More information on krill fishing

Will there be a new ‘gold rush’ on krill? >

Krill, fishing and penguins >

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