🦐 Supermarkets complicit in the looting of krill in Antarctica

A new investigative report by the Changing Markets Foundation shows that large retailers routinely sell food supplements and farmed fish produced from Antarctic krill, a small crustacean essential to the health of the planet, at the base of the food chain and that effectively sequester carbon, mitigating Climate change.

Antarctic krill is a cornerstone of the entire Antarctic ecosystem. Most of the Southern Ocean marine fauna consists of direct predators of krill or animals separated from krill by a single link, meaning that many species, such as whales, penguins, seals or squids, rely on krill as their main food source.

The heat waves and droughts we have experienced this summer are a powerful reminder of the impending climate crisis. Krill is not just an amazing animal because of its role in Antarctica; it also helps to mitigate climate change. By continuing to sell krill-raised salmon and expensive krill oil supplements, big supermarkets are complicit in depleting the main food source for whales, seals and penguins, as these animals are already under extreme pressure from global warming.says Sophie Nodzenski, senior activist at the Changing Markets Foundation.

Krill can remove up to 23 million tons of carbon from Earth’s atmosphere each year, transporting it from the surface to the seafloor, equivalent to the emissions of 35 million cars (Pew Charitable Trusts, 2019)

The report titled “Krill, Baby, Krill: The Corporations Profiting from the Pillage of Antarctica” reveals the names of the top corporations profiting from this industry, examines their sustainability claims, and presents for the first time a complete picture of their key supply chains. supplies.

Due to global warming, the Southern Ocean is already undergoing significant transformations that affect temperatures, sea ice dynamics and sea currents, and their cumulative effects on the marine ecosystem are expected to increase significantly over the course of this century. Published in 2022, the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that these transformations in the western Antarctic Peninsula are already upsetting krill, questions the viability of supply chains and recommends that industry stakeholders explore alternatives such as seaweed.

Many studies have shown how fishing activities targeting krill exacerbate threats already faced by krill and their predators. One of the main concerns is not about the volumes of krill caught, but about where to fish for krill. For years, conservationists have been sounding the alarm about the concentration of fishing activities in very small areas. This concentrated exploitation of krill overlaps with feeding grounds for key species such as penguins and seals, forced to compete with fishing vessels for food. However, this situation is not about to change, as fishing activities have intensified in the last ten years.

Only five countries (a total of 12-14 vessels) are fishing for krill in the region, with market-leading Norwegian company Aker BioMarine receiving 65% of the catch in 2021. But catch levels have increased over the decade and allowable catch limits in some areas have been reached much more quickly in recent years. These trends tend to get worse; more parties have shown interest in this fishery, and current actors have announced plans to increase production. At the same time, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), responsible for managing the krill fishery, has repeatedly failed to find consensus to adopt more protective measures for krill and local ecosystems.

The journey of krill flour is much more difficult to track than that of krill oil. The main objective of this product is to enter the composition of fish meal used in aquaculture, an industry characterized by an endemic lack of transparency. However, an in-depth survey of a sample of 16 European retail chains in France, Germany, Spain and the UK showed that they are all likely to sell products made from farmed salmon fed feed containing krill.

As with wild-caught fish used in aquaculture, none of the retailers have developed sourcing policies that exclude the use of krill-based feeds for their farmed seafood products.
Salmon products found in Aldi Nord, Edeka, Kaufland and Lidl (Germany), Auchan, Carrefour, Intermarché and Leclerc (France), Carrefour, Dia, Lidl and Mercadona (Spain), and Asda, Marks & Spencer, Sains-bury’s and Tesco (UK) are all linked to a krill diet. In any case, the krill foods found in these retailers’ supply chains come from the biggest player in the market, the Norwegian company Aker BioMarine.

In the supply chain, research also shows that five of Europe’s largest farmed salmon companies (Bakkafrost, Cermaq, Grieg Seafood, Lerøy Seafood and Norway Royal Salmon) use krill meal likely supplied by Aker BioMarine, at least for part of its salmon production.

norway farmed salmon
Salmon farm in Norway
© Christophe Magdelaine / www.notre-planete.info – License: All rights reserved

The report reveals a number of industry tactics to camouflage its harmful impacts, such as using a well-known technique of greenwashing, tricking consumers into believing their product is sustainable. The industry also claims that the current catch limit is conservative, as it represents “only 1% of krill biomass”, but does not reflect its impact on the vulnerable Antarctic ecosystem, especially in a context of accelerating climate change. This illusion of sustainability is reinforced by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), which certifies krill products as sustainable, despite constant objections from NGOs and scientists.

Industry players had to legitimize the existence of krill products through research and studies carried out to promote their benefits and thus justify their high price. However, to date, most of these studies – often initiated by the industry itself – have given mixed results. However, the industry is not giving up, it is still desperately trying to create new products and markets, such as pet food, to support its unprofitable businesses.

Scientists warn us that the Antarctic ecosystem is already becoming unstable due to the rapid acceleration of global warming. In its latest report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) questioned the sustainability of krill farming and the viability of supply chains and advised producers to turn to alternative solutions. The health of this vulnerable ecosystem depends on the krill that serve as food for a multitude of species. However, many krill fisheries overlap the main feeding grounds for these species, leading scientists to recommend stopping krill fisheries in key areas to offset the negative effects of climate change on penguin populations (Klein et al. . 2018).

That’s why the Changing Markets Foundation calls for a Immediate moratorium on krill fisheries in Antarctica. It also calls on retailers, feed producers and fish farms to phase out the capture of wild fish, including krill, in the service of aquaculture. She recommends that consumers stop using krill oil supplements and ask supermarkets to phase out the use of krill in farmed seafood.

In the midst of a climate and biodiversity crisis, it is foolish to allow this inherently destructive industry to profit from the looting of Antarctica, let alone certify it as sustainable. It’s time to speak out against this industry and ask suppliers and retailers to stop selling krill products.“, said Claire Nouvian, founder of the BLOOM Association.

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