Krill Play an Important Role in the Southern Ocean and in Happy Feet Two

Written by on November 19, 2011 in Marine Life

Emily Tripp
Senior Writer

Happy Feet Two was released in theaters on Nov 18.  While still primarily a tale about Emperor Penguins, this movie also features elephant seals, leopard seals, and most importantly, krill.  The krill in Happy Feet Two are voiced by Matt Damon and Brad Pitt.

The 30th Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) meeting took place from October 24 to November 4 in Tasmania, Australia.  Krill took center stage at the meeting because they play such an important role in the Antarctic food web.  Krill are the primary food source for the penguins of Happy Feet, in addition to whales and seals in the Southern Ocean.

Krill have a five to seven year lifespan and spend most of that time in huge schools.  These schools are so dense that they can include up to 30,000 krill per meter.

Recently, demand for these tiny creatures has increased as they are being used as feed for industrially farmed fish.  Krill produce high-value oils that can benefit these fish farms, but overfishing in many areas will begin to damage the species that depend on krill.

“It is perfect timing that two of Hollywood’s biggest names are portraying the smallest actors in one of the world’s most pristine ocean ecosystems,” says Gerald Leape, a senior officer at the Pew Environment Group.  “Existing efforts to regulate krill catch must be sustained and enforced, so that animals such as penguins and seals are not competing against industrial fishing vessels just to survive.”

Advances in fishing techniques have allowed some fleets to catch and process krill continuously, resulting in much higher catches.  This overfishing, in addition to sea-ice loss, threaten to destroy stocks in key feeding areas for penguins, seals and whales.

Check out Pew Environment Group’s Antarctic Krill Conservation Project here.

Krill.  Photo Credit: Oystein Paulsen

Krill. Photo Credit: Oystein Paulsen

Copyright ©  2011 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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