Threats to Animal Life in the Antarctic
Antarctic animals depend on the sea for their food, with bird and mammal populations concentrated in the ocean and around the marginal coastal areas. The tiny, shrimp-like krill is central to the food chain of all Antarctic life. Each individual krill measures about 4cm long and has a life span of up to seven years. The krill is the staple food source for five whale species, three groups of seal and many species of fish and birds, including penguins.
Fishing nations started to exploit krill around the Antarctic during the 1970s. Improved harvesting techniques, and the discovery of wide uses for krill in animal and human foods led to yearly catches of over 400,000 tonnes. We do not know enough about the krill's life cycle to be sure that it can withstand such fishing, and a large drop in its numbers could spell doom for animals higher up in the food chain, such as whales, but these warnings have gone unheeded.
Overfishing of Antarctic Ocean fish species has also taken place. Three varieties of Antarctic fish are heavily depleted and there is serious concern over the survival of the ice fish species.
The main species that are commercially fished in the Antactic are Antarctic Krill and Patagonian and Antarctic Toothfish and they are still in danger of depletion. However, the U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization's agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing will make it more difficult for illegal vessels to operate.Read More: CCAMLR - Protecting Antarctic Wildlife