One of my new favorite web sites, 10,000 birds, recently posted about a photo mosaic put together by the Antarctic Krill Conservation Project, known as Krill Count. You can add your photo to the mosaic — and WordPress.com users can sign up easily via their Gravatars — to show support for smart global restrictions on harvesting and managing krill.
You may be thinking wtf is krill? Here’s a quick lesson, courtesy of Krill Count:
Antarctic krill are tiny, little-known crustaceans that serve as the “bread and butter” for hundreds of species. For many marine mammals and seabirds, from the blue whale to the albatross, krill are by far the most important food in their diet.
Encompassing more than 80 species of open-ocean creatures scientifically classified as Euphausiids, Antarctic krill are about 2 ½ inches long (6 centimeters) and weigh 0.07 ounces or roughly two grams. Yet these little creatures are distinctive on several scores. Krill are one of the world’s most abundant multi-celled animals, producers of the most powerful enzymes yet discovered to break down proteins, and collectively thought to be one of the largest aggregations of marine life on the planet.
In the water, krill have an exotic appearance, with a translucent, reddish shell and large black eyes. Krill spend most of their 5-7 year life span in huge schools or “swarms,” living in concentrations so dense and vast that they cover kilometers in every direction with as many as 30,000 krill per cubic meter. Estimates of the total weight of Antarctic krill range from 50 to 500 million metric tonnes.
In other words, krill is the living breadbasket of the ocean, helping support many marine species from penguins to whales. These tiny shrimp are under threat. If they go, our whole ocean ecosystem goes. And that’s something I can’t live with.
While adding my photo probably has very little impact on the pending talks, it at least makes me feel a little bit better about trying.
- SFgate.com Whale deaths blamed on busy ship traffic, krill (sfgate.com)
- Creature Feature: The Antarctic Blue Whale (greenfudge.org)
- Are plankton and krill related? (greenanswers.com)
- Ecologists fear Antarctic krill crisis (nature.com)