Final regulations banning all fishing for krill in the U.S. Pacific waters of California, Oregon and Washington were released today. Krill are a primary component of the diet for salmon, whales, seabirds and other animals, and play an essential role in the health of ocean ecosystems. Today's action is the end of a multi-year advocacy campaign led by Oceana and others, and has had strong support from scientists, conservationists, fishermen, coastal businesses and local communities.
"This is a great day for everyone who lives along and cares about the Pacific-whether you live to land a bigger fish or love to watch a breaching whale, krill are an important part of your life," said Ben Enticknap, Pacific Project Manager. "For such tiny creatures, krill play a monumental role in the health of our oceans. Allowing commercial fishing for krill would not only be stealing from the marine food web, but also robbing us and our children of our shared ocean heritage that we all hold dear."
Krill is the general name used for 85 species of small shrimp-like crustaceans that countless species of marine mammals, fish, seabirds and other animals rely on for survival. Blue whales - the world's largest animal - can eat tons of krill each day during their feeding seasons. Salmon, which already are facing enormous pressures from dams and bycatch, also feed on krill. Worldwide, ocean wildlife is estimated to consume between 150 and 300 million metric tons of krill each year.
There is not currently any fishing for krill in U.S. waters, from three to 200 miles off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington. The federal regulations mirror those of state limits out to three miles offshore in Washington, Oregon and California, which have been universally supported by scientists, environmentalists, commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen, whale watching businesses, and many governmental marine resource managers.
The ban on fishing for krill reflects a new kind of fisheries management focused not only on the catch levels of one specific species, but also on protecting the health of ocean ecosystems. Oceana joined with scientists and others in support of this kind of ecosystem-based management, and continues to advocate that any fishing for other "forage species" like krill be managed with a priority placed on the long-term health of the ecosystem. This includes prioritizing the feeding needs of fish, invertebrates, seabirds, marine mammals, sea turtles and other marine life when calculating appropriate catch levels for forage species.
"Today's action is a watershed moment for responsible ocean management and conservation," said Don Croll, Associate Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at University of California Santa Cruz. "With all the stresses facing our oceans from climate change and industrialization, we must do all we can to protect the ocean food web from the northern coast of Alaska to the beaches of southern California. We commend all the policymakers involved in implementing the kind of proactive visionary protection we need to move forward with healthy and resilient ocean ecosystems."
The Offices of the Governors of Washington, Oregon and California also recently sent a joint letter to the Obama administration in support of the ban.
Final Rule in the Federal Register
Letter from West Coast Governors supporting this action
OpEd from Oceana's Jim Ayers and Don Croll from UC-Santa Cruz