Environmental correlates of Antarctic krill distribution in the Scotia Sea and southern Drake Passage
Antarctic krill is a key prey species for many vertebrate and invertebrate predators in the Southern Ocean; it is also an abundant fishery resource in the Scotia Sea and southern Drake Passage. Here, we identify environmental correlates of krill distribution utilizing acoustic data collected during an extensive international survey in January 2000. Separate models (at scales of 10–80 nautical miles) were derived for the full study area and for each of four subregions: northern and southern shelf waters, the seasonally ice-covered open ocean, and the generally ice-free open ocean. Krill distribution was strongly correlated with bathymetry; densities were higher over island shelves and shelf breaks and decreased with increasing distance offshore. Low krill densities occurred in areas of low chlorophyll concentration and high geostrophic velocity. Krill distribution was also related to sea level anomaly but relationships were not consistent between subregions. The models explained a maximum of 44% of the observed deviance in krill density, but did not reliably identify areas of high krill density in the open ocean, and explained a small proportion of the deviance (16%) in offshore areas covered seasonally by sea ice, probably because of the strong, residual influence of retreated ice. The commercial krill fishery is currently concentrated in shelf areas, where high densities of krill are most predictable. As krill are not predictable in the open ocean, the fishery is likely to remain principally a near-shore operation, and should be managed accordingly.
Authors: Silk, Janet R.D., Thorpe, Sally E., Fielding, Sophie, Murphy, Eugene J., Trathan, Philip N., Watkins, Jonathan L., Hill, Simeon L.