National budget: NOK 11 million to study krill in Antarctic

The Institute of Marine Research (IMR) has been allocated NOK 11 million for an expedition to study krill in Antarctica in winter 2018–2019, the Southern Hemisphere’s summer. The new icebreaker research vessel “Kronprins Haakon” will be used.

The Institute of Marine Research’s Managing Director Sissel Rogne is delighted to have received funding for this major cruise to the Antarctic.

Expanding our knowledge base

– The Institute of Marine Research is a leading centre of Polar research in many fields, and has carried out major cruises to Antarctica in the past. Each year we take part in joint scientific expeditions with other countries and the private sector in the Southern Ocean, and we have built up a good understanding of Antarctic krill. This cruise will take our research in the Antarctic to another level. It will make a vital contribution to the sustainable management of the krill fishery and the ecosystem as a whole, says Sissel Rogne.

In and under the ice

The cruise is being planned in close consultation with the Norwegian Polar Institute and the University of Tromsø (UiT), the other two institutions that will use the “Kronprins Haakon”. The vessel, which will soon leave the shipyard where it is being built in Italy, should arrive at its home port of Tromsø in the new year.

– We will head south in late autumn 2018, so this cruise will take place during the first Antarctic summer season that the vessel is available. The “Kronprins Haakon” can break through thick ice, and its equipment also allows it to study what is happening under the ice. As such, it will enable completely new kinds of research in the challenging waters of the Southern Ocean, says IMR’s Research Director Geir Huse.

 

Sissel Rogne og Geir Huse

Havforskningsdirektør Sissel Rogne og forskningsdirektør Geir Huse er glade for at det er satt av 11 milloner kroner til Antarktis-tokt i statsbudsjettet. Toktet går neste vinter – når det er sommer i Antarktis.   

Foto: Kjartan Mæstad

 

Also performing research on the way

During the cruise, scientists will study and estimate krill populations. The aim is to obtain new knowledge and underlying data for the krill fishery, where more than half the catch is taken by Norwegian fishers.

– Antarctic krill are a very important food source for fish, sea mammals and sea birds. We will learn more about the life cycle, behaviour and distribution of the krill, as well as examining the impact of the fishery on the krill population itself and on krill-dependent species, says Geir Huse.

– On the two transit legs, we will study the ocean ecosystems we travel through. We will stop at selected places to study the pelagic, mesopelagic and benthic habitats – in other words the habitats at different levels of the water column and on the sea bed. This will be incredibly exciting, he says.

Population estimate from 2000

In recent years, changes to the environment in the Southern Ocean have been observed. For instance, the temperature has risen in some areas. These changes may affect the krill, which require ice to be present for part of their life cycle.
17 years ago, an international expedition estimated the krill population in the areas where krill fishing is permitted – it only takes place in some areas – at 60.3 million tonnes. Norway, China and South Korea take the biggest catches in the Southern Ocean. Last season, Norway had two vessels that harvested a total of 160,960 tonnes of krill. The total annual krill harvest is around 300,000 tonnes.