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Richard Leakey very concerned about Krill fishing – needs information.

05/02/2009 15:42:13

Antarctic iceberg. Photo credit Richard Leakey/Wildlife Direct

Richard Leakey writes about his recent trip to Antarctica.

Reproduced from

I returned to Kenya last week after a short but truly memorable trip to the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsular. I travelled from Argentina, the port of Ushuaia, across the Drake Passage and returned by the same route after a week in the islands and the peninsular. The sea was "bumpy" and not everyone would enjoy the crossing but the destination was quite awesome and one of the best experiences in my life.

Glacial retreat
The viewing of whales, orcas, various seals, penguins and of course the incredible ice formations was a wonderful way to spend a week. My interest went further and I was especially interested to see what I could related to glacial retreat and the effects of climate change generally in the southern landscape, usually considered to be the coldest place on our planet.

Photo credit Richard Leakey/Wildlife Direct.

Photo credit Richard Leakey/Wildlife Direct.

I was shown evidence where, in the past 10 years, the glacier front had receded several hundred meters, where inlets and small bays were free of ice now during summer but which never were so before. Records from one of the research stations on the peninsular showed an increase of the mean summer temperatures of 2.5¢ªC. Penguin species such as the Adelie were moving further south and warmer climate species were appearing for the first time. There is no doubt that significant and rapid changes are taking place.

Alarming Krill fishing
The other alarming information I obtained was that the Krill (the essential base of the food chain for the vertebrate fauna) are also being depleted. Whilst climate change and its effect on ice flows and pack ice have a major bearing on this, there is today massive fishing for krill by Japan. I was told that new techniques for extracting krill at a far greater tonnage were now having devastating effects on the population density. This will have an additional impact upon the survival of other biodiversity further up the food chain.

I wonder if anyone reading this has detailed information. Are we seeing a different but perhaps a more sinister onslaught against sea mammals and birds in the Antarctic? If so, should the alarm not be raised? The over use of any species can have far reaching impacts on species survival across a broad spectrum.

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