Activists confront krill fishing vessels in Antarctic to protect penguins and whales
London, Friday 23 March 2018 – Greenpeace activists yesterday braved freezing temperatures to confront a krill fishing vessel in Antarctic waters, in a peaceful protest to protect a critical food source for penguins and whales. They occupied a survival pod which they attached to the anchor chain of the ship and unfurled a banner reading Protect The Antarctic.
Trained climbers from Greenpeace Germany and Greenpeace Nordic safely scaled the side of the Ukrainian trawler More Sodruzhestva to attach the pod and banner, after documenting it fishing for krill – a vital species in the Antarctic food web – in an area being proposed for marine protection. While the activists remained in place, the trawler was unable to resume fishing.
“Krill is the lifeblood of the Antarctic Ocean,” said activist Zoe Buckley Lennox, speaking from the survival pod. “We cannot let the fishing industry steal it away from whales and penguins which depend on it as their main food source.”
The captain of the trawler was repeatedly informed of the purpose and peaceful intent of the protest via VHF radio. However, after some hours in occupation of the pod, the vessel accelerated dramatically. At this point it was decided for safety reasons for the activists to come down.
Greenpeace is calling for the krill industry to commit to stop fishing in any area being considered by governments for ocean sanctuary status, and to back proposals for marine protection in the Antarctic. The call to protect the Antarctic is backed by over 1 million people.
The protest took place during a transhipment (transfer of cargo) with the reefer (refrigerated cargo ship) Skyfrost, near Greenwich Island in the Bransfield Strait. Skyfrost is flagged to Panama, but Greek-controlled. The transhipment took place close to a specially protected area, despite the potential impact on wildlife.
Expansion of krill fishing is being driven in part by an increased demand for the krill oil found in some health supplements, including Omega-3 pills. But a recent Greenpeace International investigation revealed that intensive fishing — including near protected areas — creates competition for food with penguins and whales, and threatens pristine Antarctic waters with potentially devastating fuel spills and fires.
“Krill vessels shouldn’t be fishing from the base of the food web near the feeding grounds of Antarctic wildlife, and they shouldn’t be doing it in areas being proposed as ocean sanctuaries. No business is worth threatening an ecosystem for,” said Thilo Maack, Protect the Antarctic campaigner aboard the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, which is in the region as part of the campaign.
Fishing for Antarctic krill is currently permitted in various parts of the Antarctic Ocean but creating a well-managed network of marine reserves, including a 1.8 million square kilometre Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary, would help protect the area. The sanctuary proposal will be considered by the Antarctic Ocean Commission in October 2018.
Greenpeace International’s recent report on the krill fishing industry is available here: Licence to Krill: the little-known world of Antarctic fishing
Thilo Maack is a senior campaigner at Greenpeace Germany.
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Luke Massey, Global Communications Lead – Protect the Antarctic, Greenpeace UK: firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 (0) 7973 873 155
Greenpeace International Press Desk: email@example.com, +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)