Predator-prey interaction in the Southern Ocean

A science and public engagement project




We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Norwegian Polar Institute and the University of St Andrews Knowledge and Exchange Impact Scheme, in addition to the project funders: the Institute for Marine Research (IMR), the International Association of Antarctic Tourist Operators (IAATO), and the Hurtigruten A/S.



About this project

Two post-graduate researchers from the Scottish Oceans Institute are working as expert Marine Mammal and Seabird Observers on an Antarctic tourist vessel.

Antarctic krill is a key food source for predators such as whales, seals, penguins and other seabirds. Rich in oil and other nutrients, krill is also harvested by humans to produce an increasing range of products, from fish food to nutritional supplements.  As markets for these products grow it is important to ensure that krill stocks are managed sustainably. A particular concern is to minimise impact on natural krill predators, some of which are endangered or critically endangered.

The main objective of the Predator-Prey Interaction in the Southern Ocean research project is to establish a long-term database of distribution and abundance estimates for krill-dependent predators in the key fishing grounds along the western Antarctic Peninsula.

A partnership already exists between the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI), Institute for Marine Research (IMR) with the International Association of Antarctic Tourist Operators (IAATO), and this year the Hurtigruten A/S has agreed to provide space on two of their vessels for MMSO observers. The efforts will be expanded to other vessels over the coming years. This project is part of a larger effort funded by the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to develop the new krill fishery management system.This aims to use cruise ships as ‘platforms of opportunity’ – a unique and relatively low-cost way to monitor highly relevant yet difficult to observe krill predators.

The data collected during this project will provide crucial input towards the development of a spatially explicit and sustainable conservation management plan for the Southern Ocean krill fishery. We hope that this project will lead to a continuing collaboration between the University of St Andrews and the commercial tourist industry (IAATO) providing a scientific data collection platform for St. Andrews students and staff members.

As part of this project, an international group of researchers will be working as expert Marine Mammal and Seabird Observers (MMSOs) on the Midnatsol and on the Fram, two Antarctic Tourist vessels. Kalliopi Gkikopoulou and Lucía Martina Martín López, two post-graduate researchers at SOI have the great opportunity to be part of that group onboard of the Midnatsol, while Chris Oosthuizen, from the University of Pretoria (South Africa) will be onboard the Fram. While on board of Chris, Popi and Lucía will train and supervise two MSc students from the University of Tromso: Victoria Ollus and Elling Dehr Johannesen (one focusing on marine mammals while the other on seabirds). They will also engage with passengers through public talks so they can learn the basics for quantifying animal abundance and habitat use understanding the importance of biodiversity protection and how this can be achieved by applying methods for observing marine predators and overlapping its density with krill fisheries.

If you also want to learn about this and about the importance of your actions to the conservation of remote and pristine environments such as Antarctica and the Southern Ocean and the animals relying on them, follow Chris, Popi, Elling, Victoria and Lucia on this South Adventure.

Lucía Martina Martín López

Lucía Martina Martín López

Post-graduate researcher

Lucía studies the locomotion strategies of marine mammals and how much energy they invest on them. Now, her biggest dream since a child is becoming true, Antarctica, the white continent!

Kalliopi Gkikopoulou

Kalliopi Gkikopoulou

Post-graduate researcher

Popi is a biologist who estimates how many animals are in an area either by detecting animals from a ship or detecting sounds that animals produce underwater.

Find out more about