The use of fishing vessels to provide acoustic data on the distribution and abundance of Antarctic krill and other pelagic species
A fishery for Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) has existed for over 3 decades and the Commission for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) manages this fishery using precautionary catch limits, fishery data collection and a scientific observer programme operating on the fishing vessels. A recent increase in the number of vessels fishing and the rising costs of undertaking scientific research cruises have focussed attention on being able to use fishing vessels to collect more extensive scientific data sets. In 2011, CCAMLR’s Subgroup on Acoustic Survey and Analysis Methods (SG-ASAM) was tasked with assessing the use of acoustic data collected from fishing vessels to provide qualitative and quantitative information on the distribution and relative abundance of Antarctic krill and other pelagic species. SG-ASAM conceived a proof of concept programme and implemented the first stage in 2013 to determine the current setup of acoustic equipment on participating fishing vessels and to establish whether these vessels could collect geo- and time-referenced acoustic data. To date data have been received from 7 krill fishing vessels and SG-ASAM has now focussed on the development of data collection protocols to enable fishing vessels to collect quantitative acoustic data along prescribed transects. While this development work continues, the willingness of fishing industry to participate in such studies has already been demonstrated by several fishing companies, and Norwegian- and Chinese-flagged fishing vessels are undertaking krill biomass surveys in two key fishery areas in the South Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean.
Authors: Watkins, J.L., Reid, K., Ramm, D., Zhao, X.Y., Cox, M., Skaret, G., Fielding, S., Wang, X.L., Niklitschek, E.