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Krill-trawlers cut through fin whale megapod

Supertrawler passing through the centre of a fin whale megapod (Sea Shepherd Global)
Supertrawler passing through the centre of a fin whale megapod (Sea Shepherd Global)

Eco-activist group Sea Shepherd Global has filmed two super-trawlers with their nets deployed ploughing through a megapod of more than 100 fin whales, as they fed on krill off Antarctica’s South Orkney Islands on 6 March.

“The two super-trawlers made no effort to change course,” reported Captain Peter Hammarstedt from Sea Shepherd’s newest vessel Allankay, which had just arrived in the Southern Ocean on its latest campaign. “It even appeared as if they deliberately steered toward the spouting megapod, knowing that where there are whales, there must be krill.” 

Also read: Sea Shepherd on anti-poacher patrol in Tuvalu

Captain Peter Hammarstedt documenting the krill supertrawler Shen Lan (Sea Shepherd Global)
Captain Peter Hammarstedt documenting the krill super-trawler Shen Lan (Sea Shepherd Global)
Two trawlers moved away as Sea Shepherd turned up (Sea Shepherd Global)
Two trawlers moved away as the Allankay turned up – why? (Sea Shepherd Global)

Two other super-trawlers immediately hauled their nets and departed as Allankay arrived, says Sea Shepherd. They later returned to fishing but on the other side of the island, Captain Hammarstedt told Divernet: “We are reapproaching tomorrow to see what they were so intent on us not seeing.” 

The Allankay’s Operation Antarctica Defence mission involves monitoring and documenting the large-scale krill-trawling that Sea Shepherd says poses the greatest ecological threat to the Antarctic ecosystem. 

Keystone species

Krill is the primary food source for baleen whales and penguins, with most Antarctic marine life either directly or only one step removed from depending on it as their food source.

Antarctic Endeavour trawler with Allankay in the background  (Sea Shepherd Global)
Antarctic Endeavour trawler, with Allankay in the background (Sea Shepherd Global)

“With the international decline in whaling – including Sea Shepherd Global driving the last whalers out of the Southern Oceans in 2018 – the krill fishery has taken its place,” claims the organisation. It says that up to 14 industrial trawlers are now targeting the keystone species on which the whales depend for survival. The krill is extracted to produce meal for the aquaculture industry and oil for Omega-3 supplements. 

“We are seeing sharp declines in humpback whale pregnancies, a decrease in the body-mass of fur seals and a plummeting of chinstrap penguin populations,” said Captain Hammarstedt. “All while climate change has reduced both the amount and duration of the sea-ice that krill need to survive.”

A recently published scientific study by Stanford University revealed four krill-trawlers cutting through a mass of more than 1,000 fin whales, concluding that such incidents would only increase in the future. 

Fin whales feeding on krill (Sea Shepherd Global)
Fin whales feeding on krill (Sea Shepherd Global)

The Allankay crew will monitor and document trawler activities while mapping out the supply-chain. Sea Shepherd Global has also teamed up with Australia’s Bob Brown Foundation, which is investigating krill-fishing companies in the country.

“It is an absurdity and a crime against nature that krill are being hoovered out of the remote Southern Oceans – by massive industrial vessels that have travelled halfway around the world to get there – just so that the lynchpin species, on which the health of the entire ecosystem depends, can be sucked from the gaping mouths of hungry whales and penguins in order to turn farmed salmon pink,” commented Alistair Allan, Antarctic campaigner with the foundation.

“The krill fishery is legal, so all we can do is show the world what they’re actually doing down there – especially if it’s not what they say they’re doing – with the goal of convincing CCAMLAR [the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources] to take action and change the rules,” Sea Shepherd Global told Divernet.

“No one has actually come down here to monitor the krill fishing fleet – if they’re running from us, we’ll find out why.”

Also on Divernet: Sea Shepherd Targets Med ‘Hope Spot’ Poachers, We Didn’t Know: Dolphin-Slaughter Ignorance RevealedBeluga Fails To Survive Despite Rescue BidSea Shepherd Captures Dolphin-Kill Evidence

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Sally Campbell
Sally Campbell
11 months ago

THIS HAS TO STOP NOW before the krill become depleted and the balleen whales deprived of their essential food. There is no end to man’s greed and stupidity and this can only be stopped by boats patrolling 24/7 with permission to arrest and confiscate the boats involved.. There is added danger that these boats actually hit and wound whales who then die. The oceans balance is also compromised by this irresponsible and illegal activity. I despair.

Bruce Campbell
Bruce Campbell
11 months ago

This so outrageous and so despicable they don’t care what they are doing just to get what they want they would even kill the whales to get what they want why can’t the country’s who say this can’t go on do something about this why do they have an agreement and let this happen

Harrie
Harrie
11 months ago

It’s all about money greed and selfishness. There are to many people on this world that don’t give a flying toss about anything else than money.

Aurora
Aurora
11 months ago

Why do they need to fish for krill (whale’s food) when they fish for everything else out of the seas? Man’s greed again!

A wee man
A wee man
11 months ago

That’s me and the Mrs off the pink salmon. Sorry Scotland.

Steve
Steve
10 months ago

Typical; greed over everything. They won’t be happy until its all good.

Karen
Karen
11 months ago

They should be allowed to take food from the whales.putting them in danger.

Nick Wren
Nick Wren
11 months ago

This is a typically emotive but biased report I feel. I’ve been a scientific observer on one of those vessels monitoring the krill fishing off South Georgia and South Orkney so it’s not unmonitored, and it’s a tiny fleet and pretty well regulated. Sucking food out of the mouths of whales? Come on, you can do better than that. Conservation science deserves better. If harm was done please document and report it, providing actual facts so that things can be improved

John sim
John sim
Reply to  Nick Wren
11 months ago

It seems pretty self evident that there was huge potential for direct harm to the whales due to the nets being deployed (not just the decline of their food source) personally I would want something done to address the risk before an incident occurred, we also can’t continue to ignore the knock on effect this will have to the entire ecosystem (it really is past time we stopped deluding ourselves).

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