I remember years ago when I was still persona grata with the 3AW breakfast show as the resident political spinner, describing how I would run the campaign in favour of Japanese whaling. The secret, I decided, was to attack the sizeism that determines that saving the life of a single whale is more important than saving the millions of beautiful little creatures called krill that the monsters of the deep eat every day.
“Save the krill – kill a whale” was my suggested slogan to put on the tee shirts and I received more abuse over that item than anything I ever said with unfair criticism of John Howard or Paul Keating. I happily put my pretend campaign into storage having discovered that commercial radio has many whale loving listeners without a sense of humour.
But maybe I was wrong; for today I read that the cuddly little krill is a declining species with the voracious appetite of whales and seals a major factor in this threatened genocide.
Messrs Wayne Z. Trivelpiecea, Jefferson T. Hinkea, Aileen K. Millera, Christian S. Reissa, Susan G. Trivelpiecea, and George M. Wattersa provide the telling evidence of destruction in an article recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. It is difficult to think of a publication with a more prestigious title than that so we should be taking notice of their views in “Variability in krill biomass links harvesting and climate warming to penguin population changes in Antarctica.”
I am not going to be distracted by the academically fashionable tendency of these academics to tie their research findings into theories of global warming. Academics, like whales, have to eat. Nor do I want to dwell on the article choosing to concentrate on the impact of declining krill numbers in Antarctic waters on the capacity of penguins to survive. Grants are surely easier to get for creatures made immensely popular by recent cinema classics than for studying shrimp-like marine crustaceans. And, of course, penguins on land are easier to count than krill in the ocean so we should not be too harsh. The decline in penguin numbers is a proxy measure of the decline in krill.
And so to the murderous, if understated, conclusion about the damage being done by whales:
Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) is the dominant prey of nearly all vertebrates in this region, including Adélie and chinstrap penguins. Large-scale changes in krill biomass best explain why populations of Adélie and chinstrap penguins increased as a result of competitive release following the harvesting of the whales and seals (the krill-surplus hypothesis) and why more recently they have decreased as a result of climate change and the recovery of pinnipeds and baleen whale populations.