Five major krill fishing firms agreed to halt operations across huge swathes of the Antarctic to help protect wildlife in a move hailed as “bold and progressive” by conservationists.

The vast frozen continent is home to penguins, seals, whales and other marine life with krill a staple food for many species. But a combination of climate change and industrial-scale fishing has been hitting populations of the small crustacean, with potentially disastrous impacts on larger predators.

Now the five companies that make up the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting (ARK) – from Norway, Chile, South Korea and China – have agreed to stop fishing in sensitive coastal areas.

They also threw their support behind a planned network of marine protected areas (MPAs) throughout the Southern Ocean, including in places where they currently operate.

The shrimp-like crustacean, which is rich in protein, is primarily used in the aquaculture industry although its oil is a popular nutritional supplement.

ARK represent 85 per cent of the Antarctic krill fishing industry and conservationists said it was a significant move. AFP

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