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Modern fisheries in the Southern Ocean and nearby seas take various species of fish, squid and krill. Krill is a Norwegian word meaning whale food, and indicates the importance of this species in the ecosystem.
Krill (Euphausia superba) are small, shrimp-like animals that grow up to about 6 cm in length and live for up to 5 years. These are some of the largest members of the plankton, in fact because they swim so well some people think that they are more like little fish than drifting plankton.
The krill usually live in dense swarms that may have more than 10,000 krill in each cubic metre of water. Krill swarms may be quite small, just a few metres long. Occasionally krill swarms go on for miles and miles and contain thousands of tonnes of krill.
The Southern Ocean food web is relatively simple, with a single species, krill, being the major item in the diet of many of the predators; fish, squid, penguins, seals and whales. The developing fishery for krill raised an important conservation issue that is being addressed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).