An unlikely alliance has formed between krill fishing companies and environmental protection groups over a common cause: protecting the Antarctic Ocean and its marine life. Greenpeace is teaming with members of the Association for Responsible Krill Harvesting (ARK) to ensure wildlife sustainability of the southern ice cap.

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Close-up image of Antarctic krill on black background

The agreement was announced during the Greenpeace Antarctic 360° event in Cambridge. The individual fishing companies honoring the agreement are all ARK members, representing 85 percent of the Antarctic krill harvesting industry.

Related: The world’s largest wildlife sanctuary proposed for Antarctica

Under the pact, the fisherman will honor “buffer zones” in known penguin breeding grounds in order to protect the wildlife. In addition, major portions of the Antarctic Peninsula will be out-of-bounds for the ARK membership.

The partnership will also see ARK support scientific endeavors to study the area’s natural inhabitants. Working with scientists and environmental organizations, the groups will end fishing operations in environmentally sensitive areas, permanently closing these locations to fishing in 2020. The prohibition is part of a plan to create permanent protection zones throughout the Antarctic and reduce the potential for wildlife damage.

The movement to protect Antarctic wildlife has grown in popularity in the last decade. According to Greenpeace, more than 1.7 million people worldwide have signed the organization’s petition to create stricter protections and maintain wildlife conservation in the southernmost waters.

Krill is an important part of the Antarctic ecosystem. The shrimp-like crustacean is a food source for many of the South Pole’s animals, including whales, penguins and seals. By creating the wide protection zones, both Greenpeace and ARK hope to ensure long-term sustainability for animals.

“Through our commitment we are showing that it is possible for no-fish zones and sustainable fisheries to co-exist,” Kristine Hartmann, executive vice president at krill fishing company Aker BioMarine, said in a statement. “We are positive that ARK’S commitment will help ensure krill as a sustainable and stable source of healthy omega-3s for the future.”

The ARK-Greenpeace partnership is one part of a global plan to help preserve marine life. The multi-nation Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources will meet in October to decide on sanctuary status for parts of the ocean.

+ Greenpeace

Via The Guardian

Image of krill via Uwe Kils