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UK food and health retailers commit to protect Antarctic

UK retailers have brokered a voluntary agreement with the largest krill fishing companies and the NGO Greenpeace to voluntarily restrict fishing in key areas around the Antarctic Peninsula, including “buffer zones” around breeding colonies of penguins.

Krill, a small crustacean, are caught to feed to farmed fish and for their value as a source of omega-3 oils, which is in high demand for health supplements and to fortify foods.

However, many animals, including penguins, seals and whales, depend upon krill, making it a “keystone species” in the Antarctic food web.

The new industry statement has been signed by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), Aldi, Asda, Boots, the Cooperative Group, Holland & Barrett, Lidl, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.

The retailers, together with the Association of Responsible Krill harvesting companies (ARK), which represents 85% of the krill fishing industry in the Antarctic, have also pledged to support the scientific and political process for the creation of a network of large-scale marine protected areas in the Antarctic, including areas in which fishing companies currently operate.

“The momentum for protection of the Antarctic’s waters and wildlife is snowballing,” said Frida Bengtsson, of Greenpeace’s Protect the Antarctic campaign.

Head of sustainability at the BRC Peter Andrews added: “Our members recognise their responsibilities in protecting the marine environment and have set out a clear statement of commitment to safeguard vital areas of the Antarctic Ocean and its ecosystem now and in future. But we want to go further and enshrine this protection with the establishment of a network of marine protected areas.”