Krill harvested for pet food damages Antarctica’s marine wildlife

NEWS AND COMMENT: Krill are very small crustaceans naturally rich in omega-3, proteins and antioxidants which make them an excellent pet food. They form huge swarms in the oceans and krill is very abundant in the seas around Antarctica. The trouble is that krill are a vitally important food source for many marine species such as seals and penguins.

As krill is being fished to supply the pet food chain, Antarctica’s marine wildlife is now having to compete with domestic cats and dogs thanks to the intervention of people. It is the activities of people who have created this artificial competition because normally one wild species competes with another in the wild but in this instance we have wild species competing with domestic species.

Krill
Krill. Image in the public domain.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats


One leading marine biologist, Dr Richard Kirby, said that the idea that you should feed pets with krill is “barking mad”. Fisheries are under a quota system as I understand it but it is probably insufficiently managed or poorly formulated, in part, perhaps, because it is not sufficiently responsive to annual changes in the climate, and I’m referring to global warming. Increasing temperatures reduces the amount of available krill which puts further pressure on species dependent upon it.

People who observe penguins say that krill is becoming scarcer in the Western Antarctic Peninsula because of overfishing and climate change. I’m told that the Western Antarctic Peninsula, which is where krill is harvested, is one of the fastest areas of global warming.

My research indicates that there are a number of pet food manufacturers using krill such as “Qrill Pet” and “All Natural Pet Care”. The latter supplier extols the “exceptional holistic benefits of krill and krill oil”. They say that it’s been proven time and again to be beneficial to both humans and other species. They explain that the word ‘krill’ refers to 85 deep water marine, planktonic crustacean species. Thank you for that explanation but it is a shame that you are undermining the survivability of marine species in the Antarctic.

Krill has been harvested since the early 1800s and it makes up the world’s most abundant biomass, apparently. For example, the blue whale has one of the largest appetites of any animal, eating up to four tonnes of krill every day. As a pet food it comes in several forms including oil, flaked/ground freeze-dried, and whole freeze-dried.

All Natural Pet Care provide a long list of the benefits both to people and animals of eating krill in its various forms. So there’s no doubt that it is a good food. However, people who buy the product will have to ask themselves whether they believe it is right and proper that this resource is partly removed from the Antarctic seas to feed pets rather than the important wildlife of that area. This is another conservation issue. It is conflict in fact between humans and wildlife and it will get worse as the human population grows which inevitably leads to more pets. What human population size can the planet sustain?

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