Brad Pitt, Matt Damon give krill a star turn

October 26, 2011

There are no small parts, only small actors, or so the old show-biz saying goes. Now there are big stars — Matt Damon and Brad Pitt — playing two of the smallest parts ever. In a far cry from “Ocean’s Eleven” (and 12 and 13) they’re lending their voices to a pair of krill, small shrimp-like creatures that form the base of the Antarctic food web.

Pitt and Damon play Will and Bill, the krill, in “Happy Feet Two,” the sequel to the 2006 dancing-penguins animated feature. Both films have conservation themes. The latest movie  opens  in mid-November.

These Hollywood names might help shine a spotlight on krill at a time when the species is under pressure, according to the Pew Environment Group. An international meeting under way now in Hobart, Tasmania, is expected to consider more protection for these tiny animals, which penguins, seals and whales depend on to survive.

Increasing demand for krill as feed for industrially farmed fish and for nutritional supplements has pushed the krill fishery beyond a sustainable level, the conservation group said in a statement. Krill fishing in some areas could outpace efforts to protect the well-known animals that rely on it.

“Existing efforts to regulate krill catch must be sustained and enforced, so that animals such as penguins and seals are not competing against industrial fishing vessels just to survive,” said Gerry Leape, a senior officer at the Pew group.

New fishing technologies enable fleets from multiple countries process krill continuously, bringing in much higher catches than a decade ago. An accelerating loss of sea ice that provides essential habitat for krill adds to the problem and threatens to deplete stocks in key feeding areas for penguins, seals and whales.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources is meeting in Tasmania from October 24 through November 4, and the Pew Environment Group is asking delegates to the commission to require observers on all krill-fishing vessels, set up a dedicated fund to monitor krill predators, and maintain smaller divisions of the ocean to manage krill to prevent local depletion that will harm penguins and other animals.

Photo credits: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch (Matt Damon and Brad Pitt  arrive for the screening of their movie ‘Ocean’s Twelve’ in a Berlin cinema December 15, 2004.)

REUTERS/Mike Blake (baby green sea turtles eat krill from the hand of senior aquarist Bryan Mercer, Sea World, San Diego, July 2, 2003)

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