The Importance of being...a krill
Maybe, the talk around climate change and the need for conservation activities is increasing. However, there is one critical aspect of conservation that tends to get ignored – marine conservation and this is where we face one of the greatest conservation challenges on earth.
71% of our planet is covered by water.
97% of this water is in the oceans.
Let just two facts sink in – first, over 3 billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods.
Second, while oceans are the ‘carbon sinks’ of the world, we’re reaching the limit of heat and carbon dioxide that oceans can absorb, and the consequence is a spike in ocean temperatures. Warmer seas melt the ice around the poles, which in turn leads to rising sea levels. Antarctica alone is losing 150 billion tons of ice each year. Up in the north, 97% of the Greenland ice cap, is melting.
There are currently hundreds of thousands of living creatures in the ocean that we are aware of, but scientists estimate that we still have identified only 3% of the available species. Imagine that ! Each of these species play a role in maintaining the ecological balance and we are unaware of 97% of them.
Clearly, we still don’t know much about what happens in this large ecosystem and we don't yet have enough visibility into the role that many of the citizens of the oceans play.
Lets talk, however, about something that is tiny yet visible, and till recently, undervalued in terms of the critical role it plays – the krill.
The insignificant looking krill averages about two inches in length, but it punches far more than its weight in terms of its impact on the marine ecology.
Lets see how.
Krills carry large quantities of carbon away from the atmosphere…how large ? Well, equivalent to the carbon produced by 35 million cars !
Pause. Let that figure sink in.
And of course, they form the staple diet for, seals, penguins and, even the largest of them all – the whales. 96% of the calories for these sea mammals and birds are provided by the krill. If the krill doesn’t survive, the entire marine ecosystem is at risk.
NatGeo called these small creatures as ‘the fuel that runs the engine of the Earth’s marine ecosystems’.
What should be extremely worrying is that recent studies show that the krill population in the Antarctic would have decreased by almost 80% in the last 50 years ! Global warming and overfishing are naturally the main culprits.
Its not as if alarm bells have not been heard. Almost 40 years back, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was formed. In this year’s meeting, the members agreed to renew a krill fishery management measure of spreading out krill fishing in the Antarctic Peninsula while developing a new one.
Maybe some positive news in a space where that is in short supply but experts argue that to truly safeguard krill, the best measure is to have Marine Protected Areas ( MPAs ).
And what did CCAMLR decide on MPAs ? For the 6th year running, they were not able to arrive at a consensus. Six years.
In the meantime, the damage continues.
A few personal recommendations if you want to see and learn more about marine life – Brian Skerry’s Secret of the Whales ( Disney + ) and Bertie Gregory’s ‘Epic Adventures’ ( Disney + ).
And if you want to know more about marine conservation, and play a role there check out : https://only.one/ and Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier’s Sea Legacy : https://www.sealegacy.org/
Do let me know if you have any recommendations of similar films and conservation groups.
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