Climate Change and Management of Antarctic Krill Fisheries

In Olav Schram Stokke, Andreas Østhagen and Andreas Raspotnik (eds), Marine Resources, Climate Change and International Management Regimes. Bloomsbury, 2022, pp. 239-256

What challenges does climate change pose to effective management of fisheries for Antarctic krill – and is the international management regime dimensioned to meet those challenges?[1] The combination of rising levels of sea temperature, acidification and ultraviolet radiation in the Southern Ocean is expected to induce a poleward shift in the distribution of the world’s biggest marine stock: Antarctic krill (see Ch. 11). Some reports indicate that such a shift is already underway (Atkinson et al. 2009; Hill et al. 2019), although these findings have been disputed (Cox et al. 2018, 2019). From what we know about krill biology, inter-species interaction and oceanographic conditions in the Southern Ocean, a poleward shift would most probably imply significant reduction of habitats suitable for krill spawning, hatching, larval survival and juvenile growth (McBride et al. 2021).

Such potentially cumulative impacts of climate change further compound a management challenge that the regional regime, centred on the Commission for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), has not fully met thus far. In contrast to the agility shown in developing responses to steep increases in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing for valuable deep-sea species like Patagonian toothfish in the late 1990s and early 2000s (Miller et al. 2010), CCAMLR’s management of the krill fisheries has not evolved according to the Commission’s own aspirations. Monitoring and research of the stock and associated species have been irregular and spatially limited; and the existing harvest-control rule is not linked to the best available information on the status of Antarctic krill and krill-dependent stocks.

This chapter briefly reviews the institutional framework for managing krill fisheries, outlining how climate change has been addressed within CCAMLR, and examining the prospects for further advances toward ecosystem risk assessment and a more adaptive management system. Thereby it contributes to answering the second and the third overarching research questions addressed in this volume (see Ch. 1): management challenges deriving from stock-shifts and the extent to which those operating the regime are able to modify it, if that is necessary for maintaining high performance.