Significance to humans

About 330,000 tons (300,000 kg) of krill per year are fished commercially, mostly for fish and animal feed. The largest single use is in aquaculture. Krill pigments are responsible for the pink color of salmon flesh, and krill-based feed is used extensively for farmed salmon as well as yellowtail and other fish.

Northern krill (Meganyctiphanes norvegica) eat algae and zooplankton that live on ice. (Photo by D. Larsen. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

In some regions such as Japan, krill products are produced for human consumption. Krill provide a plentiful, highprotein food source, but processing problems are significant. The organisms deteriorate quickly after death, because of the release of powerful digestive enzymes. In addition, their ex-oskeletons, which have a high-fluoride content, must be removed before the meat can be processed into food products for humans.

Other potential krill products being explored include food additives (proteins, omega-3 fatty acids) and enzymes and other biochemical products for pharmaceutical and industrial use.

In addition to harvesting the krill themselves, fishermen sometimes seek flocks of seabirds feeding on krill as indicators that a swarm is present and, therefore, other krill predators of interest, such as salmon, are probably in the vicinity.

1. North Pacific krill (Euphausia pacifica); 2. Nordic krill (Meganyctiphanes norvegica); 3. Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba); 4. Thysanoessa in-ermis; 5. Thysanoessa spinifera; 6. Thysanoessa raschii. (Illustration by Bruce Worden)

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