by Sigve Nordrum, Executive Vice-President QRILL Sales, Aker BioMarine

 

70 percent of the planet is covered by oceans, but only two percent of our food consumption comes from the ocean. The human population is growing, and by 2050, there will be 9.7 billion people in the world. This growth puts a strain on human food production with a required 69 percent increase in food production needed to help meet this demand. The ocean, a unique and diverse system, plays a critical role in the world's future, and there is no question that fish is a good source of protein and omega-3, making the need for sustainable aquafeed a priority. Can krill be the answer?

In the years to come, Aker BioMarine will continue to provide the best ingredients to farmers across the globe, but the company will need to continue harvesting in only the most sustainable way. By continually improving its technology platforms, commitment to big data efforts and more, the company can assure that what they are doing aligns with its mission to improve human and planetary health.

There is no question that technology and big data are the future of sustainable fisheries management. One of the most important milestones for the krill industry was the 2019 large-scale Antarctic krill survey confirming the healthy krill biomass. There was more krill present today than from the last large-scale krill survey conducted in 2000, proving that the krill stock is in a healthy condition, and remains one of the best managed and underutilised marine resources in the world.

The total allowable krill catch is limited to one percent of the stock biomass, leaving 99 percent of the biomass for other predators. In reality, the catch has never come close to the one percent and has, during the last few years, been about half of the set quota.

Data driven operations

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), the international treaty managing the krill fishery in the Southern Ocean, has made decisive steps towards a more dynamic and scientific data driven management regime. In order to take on this challenge to better monitor the krill biomass, and to stay ahead of the curve in a data-driven era, Aker BioMarine has launched an unmanned solar-powered ocean data drone (Sailbuoy) as part of its operations in Antarctica.

The two-metre long ocean drone is equipped with echosounder and environmental sensors to collect, process and transmit density and distribution data from wherever it is deployed, in real time. Although robust and tough enough to survive the Antarctic conditions, the drone was also designed to be small and unobtrusive to avoid disturbing the local wildlife. It is easy to operate, launch and recover, plus the unique ocean drone uses wind for propulsion and is powered by solar panels, which charge the internal batteries. The data collection carried out by the drone has a zero carbon footprint.

By positioning it close to the vessel, the Sailbuoy will help do the necessary searching, and it can also cover remote areas for up to months at a time, telling the crew where and when to proceed. The ocean drone is positively changing the way the company works and will prove to bring many benefits in the future. By minimising the time and resources that the fishing vessels have to spend looking for krill, the Sailbuoy reduces the financial and environmental costs of harvesting by helping make operations even more sustainable and focused.

Benefit scientific community

In addition to the operational advantages for Aker BioMarine, the data collected from the Sailbuoy will benefit the wider scientific community and the krill fishery overall. With the careful management of the fishery by precautionary catch limits based on frequent estimates, the detailed data that the Sailbuoy can capture on density and distribution will provide a more accurate picture of the size of the biomass.

By aligning technology and big data to its sustainability efforts, Aker BioMarine is aiming to reduce its industrial footprint while strengthening its positive handprint.

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