Eating Krill

  • Stephen Nicol


I am sitting on the bridge of the Antarctic Sea, which lies marooned in the dry dock in Montevideo undergoing corrective surgery to turn it into the world’s largest and most sophisticated krill fishing vessel. The deck is a jumble of cables, hoses, scaffolding, and discarded slabs of metal. In the vast hold, giant chunks of machinery lie haphazardly in the cavernous space that one day will be occupied by metric tons of processed krill. In the distant forecastle, a maze of stainless steel pipes, conduits, and conveyors are being assembled into the processing plant. This floating factory will produce what the Norwegian fishing company Aker Biomarine hopes will be a range of products that will justify the huge investment in their three-vessel fleet. Even without the chaos of the refit, the ship is not a pretty sight. The captain jokes that the Antarctic Sea had been voted one of the world’s ugliest ships several years running, and it is easy to see why. It is long, looks ungainly, and is quite unlike any fishing vessel I have ever seen. It is missing the usual trawl deck, nets, and winches associated with conventional fishing practices. The Antarctic Sea used to be a freighter. It was converted for catching and processing in the early 2000s for a Norwegian fishing company that subsequently went out of business—a not unfamiliar fate for many krill fishing operations. Aker Biomarine bought the 133-meter (145-yard) vessel and commenced a costly refit in Uruguay before the vessel was reborn as the 9,500-metric ton Antarctic Sea. The vessel had originally been named Thorsovdi, Norwegian for the “Hammer of Thor,” not a particularly sensitive name for a company whose stated vision is “to create a healthier lifestyle through responsible and sustainable decisions.” But what might justify such massive investment? and why would anyone want to go fishing for krill in the first place?

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© Stephen Nicol 2018

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  • Stephen Nicol

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