Aussie scientists embark on voyage to count Antarctic krill


CANBERRA: Australia’s national science agency has launched a voyage to Antarctica in an attempt to measure krill numbers.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) voyage, which departed on Friday, will use new technology to count krill in Australia’s Antarctic region for the first time since 2006.

Krill is one of the most abundant species on the planet but a 2018 report from Greenpeace found that commercial krill fishing vessels were operating closer to whale feeding grounds.

Whales, seals and penguins feed on krill but they are also fished for pet and livestock food and fish bait.

“It’s the right time to make sure this area is responsibly managed to ensure the sustainable use of this wonderful resource without harming the predators that rely on it for their survival,” said Rob King, a krill biologist on the expedition.

Past expeditions have been limited to counting krill near the ocean surface but new equipment including a floating frame equipped with cameras will allow the 20 researchers on the voyage to observe krill on the ocean floor.

“It hasn’t been done before, we don’t know if it will work, but this is the first try,” King said.
“(If it works it) will tell us what species they are, what sex they are, what size they are.

“This is a whole bunch of information that we’ve never had access to.”

Everyone on the voyage has spent most of January in quarantine as a coronavirus precaution.
In December Antarctica lost its status as the only continent free from coronavirus after 36 Chileans conducting maintenance tested positive to COVID-19. (ANI/Xinhua)