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Euphausia pacifica
Thysanoessa spinifera

Pacific Fishery Management Council
North Pacific Management Council

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Krill are small, prolific shrimp-like crustaceans that graze on marine plankton. Krill are a prime food source for many fish and seabirds, as well as baleen whales and pinnipeds such as the Antarctic fur seal. Due to their ecological importance and nearly global distribution in the world�s oceans, krill are a critical link in marine food webs and ecosystems. Many species that prey on krill are endangered or badly depleted, including Pacific salmon and large whales such as the right whale, blue whale, and humpback whale. Protecting the krill supply at the base of the food web is essential to the recovery of these species.

No krill fisheries have operated in U.S. waters up to now, although a large krill fishery does fish in the waters off Antarctica. The growing demand for fishmeal to supply fish farms is creating pressure to open fisheries for krill in other oceans. The Pacific and North Pacific Fishery Management Councils recognized the potentially disastrous impacts that krill fisheries could have by driving down krill populations and they have taken preemptive action to ban krill fishing, but other fishery management councils have not taken action to protect this critical link at the base of the food web.

Climate change may also pose a serious risk to krill, as they thrive on phytoplankton blooms in colder, nutrient-rich waters. Warming waters with lower krill numbers could trigger impacts that cascade through the entire marine food web.

Management Issues
In 1998, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council banned directed fishing for krill in federal waters off Alaska through amendments 36 and 39 to the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Groundfish FMP and Gulf of Alaska Groundfish FMP, respectively. The amendments defined a forage fish category which included krill and specified that fishery regulations should prevent the development of a commercial fishery for krill. At present, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council is drafting a new Fishery Management Plan for the Arctic Ocean which would ban fishing for krill and other forage species in the U.S. territorial waters of the Arctic region.

In 2006, the Pacific Fishery Management Council also adopted a ban on commercial fishing for krill in federal waters in recognition of its vital importance to the food web and to the productivity of commercially targeted species of fish and other species higher up the food chain. In October, 2007, the Bush Administration's Office of Management and Budget rejected the Pacific Council�s amendment, claiming it was unnecessary because there is no fishery for krill on the west coast. However, the states of Washington, Oregon, and California have already banned krill fishing in their state waters, and they prohibit landings of krill at their ports. "Nevertheless, the lack of an amendment banning krill fishing in federal waters means a krill fishery could be opened in the Pacific."

Copyright � Marine Fish Conservation Network. All Rights Reserved 2007

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