Increasing temperatures have impacted on the two poles more rapidly that we realise. In the last 50 years, the average temperature at the poles has risen by 2.5 degrees. Some of the most endangered species listed by the international union for the conservation of nature (IUCN) occur near or at the two poles. The arctic fox, penguins, and whales are all threatened by the increase in temperatures. By far the biggest consumers of krill are Baleen whales which eat vast amounts of the crustacean.
Wendy Foden, a PhD candidate at Wits University who works for the IUCN, has described the interconnectedness of krill, whales and declining ice cover in the Antarctic. The tiny krill feed on the algae growing underneath the ice. Their main food source, however, is decreasing as the ice is melting and so there is less algae. The consequences of this are twofold. Krill is believed to sequester carbon and more importantly is the main food of whales in the Antarctic. It is estimated that one whale can eat 4 tonnes of krill per day. A diminution in the krill population will have an impact on whale populations as well as on rising carbon levels.
The population of krill has already declined by 80% since the 1970s but companies harvesting it argue that they are not impacting on the resource. 150-180 000 tonnes of krill are currently harvested and the figure is rising. 95% of the harvest is for fishmeal which is used to feed farmed fish such as salmon. The rest is being used as health food supplements which are touted as being far superior to existing omega 3 products also made from fish oil.
There are so many stories of food chains under threat. Many of which we can do nothing about. However, in the case of krill oil, we DO have a choice. As consumers, we have the choice not to purchase any product sold as krill oil/astaxanthin knowing that krill is one of the smaller and less publicised creatures affected by climate change.
By Helen Lunn for Simply Green