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Antarctic krill fishery effects over penguin populations under adverse climate conditions: Implications for the management of fishing practices

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Fast climate changes in the western Antarctic Peninsula are reducing krill density, which along with increased fishing activities in recent decades, may have had synergistic effects on penguin populations. We tested that assumption by crossing data on fishing activities and Southern Annular Mode (an indicator of climate change in Antarctica) with penguin population data. Increases in fishing catch during the non-breeding period were likely to result in impacts on both chinstrap (Pygoscelis antarcticus) and gentoo (P. papua) populations. Catches and climate change together elevated the probability of negative population growth rates: very high fishing catch on years with warm winters and low sea ice (associated with negative Southern Annular Mode values) implied a decrease in population size in the following year. The current management of krill fishery in the Southern Ocean takes into account an arbitrary and fixed catch limit that does not reflect the variability of the krill population under effects of climate change, therefore affecting penguin populations when the environmental conditions were not favorable.

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The authors would like to thank the CCAMLR Secretariat and co-originators/owners for providing data access on krill fishery. The authors acknowledge the important contribution of the MAPPPD resources towards the increasing knowledge of penguin species ecology. This study benefited from the “Marine Protected Areas program” of the Instituto Antártico Chileno.

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Correspondence to Lucas Krüger.

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Krüger, L., Huerta, M.F., Santa Cruz, F. et al. Antarctic krill fishery effects over penguin populations under adverse climate conditions: Implications for the management of fishing practices. Ambio 50, 560–571 (2021).

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