Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless is counted among the notable ocean conservationists — including Carl Safina, Sylvia Earle and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. — in SEA VOICES, a coffee table book by Duffy Healey and Elizabeth Laul Healey. The couple has been involved in saving the oceans for decades, and they recently posted an excerpt of the book’s interview with Andy on their website.
Here’s an excerpt from the Q&A about krill, a topic near and dear to Andy’s heart.
Q. Krill is very important to the overall food chain of the ocean. Can you briefly explain what krill is, why it’s so important, and what Oceana and others are doing to help protect krill?
A. Krill are small, shrimp-like crustaceans. There are 85 species of krill, and they are present in all of the world’s oceans, and are particularly abundant in the Southern Ocean. Krill have light emitting organs called ‘photophores’ that make them glow in the dark; swarms of krill at night or in the dark ocean depths make impressive swirling light displays. The largest krill, the Antarctic krill, is thought to live up to 11 years old. Ocean wildlife eats between 150 and 300 million metric tons of krill each year.
Many seabirds, whales, and fish rely on krill as an integral part of their diets. Wild salmon eat krill; it is what makes their meat healthy and pink. The blue whale, the largest animal that has ever lived, feeds exclusively on tiny krill. Remember the March of the Penguins? Those emperor penguins march hundreds of miles every year . . . to eat krill. Their survival, as with the survival of many marine species, is directly linked to the abundance of krill.
Follow Andy Sharpless on Twitter at @Oceana_Andy.