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Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Murray

8 May 2003

New Antarctic Marine Research Aquarium equals best in world

A new aquarium and laboratory at the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) will help revolutionise the study of Antarctic marine organisms and ensure the preservation of the pristine values of the Antarctic.

Officially opening the Antarctic Marine Research Aquarium today the Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic Dr Sharman Stone said that AAD scientists could now continue research in the land-based laboratory that was previously limited to the ocean-caught organisms that did not always last long or reproduce in holding tanks.

Research on krill has been especially challenging in the past, since they are extremely sensitive to environmental conditions. Longer term and more detailed studies of the Antarctic's unique marine life will now be possible, with krill given their own 'home away from home' in a specially chilled and carefully lit environment.

The state-of-the-art aquarium and laboratory cost nearly $1 million and is part of a multi-million dollar upgrade of AAD's facilities at Kingston, Hobart. The facility is now equal to any laboratory in the world used for the study of Antarctic krill and other marine organisms.

"This innovative aquarium and laboratory complex means that large numbers of krill can be bred allowing scientists to study their reproduction, growth, behaviour and larval biology. Understanding Antarctic krill in particular is critical to understanding the interdependencies and vulnerabilities in the Antarctic food chain," Dr Stone said.

Krill forms the staple diet of some of the several Antarctic species including whales, seals, squid, penguins and other sea birds. As krill is such an integral part of the marine ecosystem, understanding its life cycle will help us better protect the species from over harvesting in the future.

"Krill has been fished for more than 25 years for human consumption, for farmed fish food and is now used for bait in recreational fisheries. At the peak of krill catch, in 1981, over 500,000 tonnes of krill were taken. The current catch level is some 120,000 tonnes per year, with countries such as Japan, USA, Korea, Poland and the Ukraine involved in the harvesting, Dr Stone said.

This research will provide vital information for helping to plan a sustainable fishery for the future. This planning and management is critical given over-exploitation of krill would pose an enormous threat to the Antarctic ecosystem.

"This facility also provides for important research into the negative effects of past human activity in the Antarctic and its impact on the continent's or surrounding sea's ecology. This research will also help scientists find the most appropriate way to tackle the remediation of affected Antarctic sites where, for example, old fuel and chemicals remain twenty and thirty years after they or their containers were abandoned. Solutions that work on mainland Australia need to be adapted for dealing with frozen waste," Dr Stone said.

"Making sure the heavy footprint of previous Antarctic visitors is removed is a very special challenge for all nations who conduct science and claim parts of the Antarctic."

"Australia plays a pivotal role in Antarctic research, and these new facilities will allow the AAD to continue to be a key international centre for the study of Antarctic marine organisms," Dr Stone said.

Anna Hughes (Dr Stone's office) 0408 697 055
Patti Lucas, Media Liaison, AAD, (03) 6232 3514 or 0439 639 227


Rob King

The purpose-built aquarium and laboratory were designed by the AAD's Rob King, a scientist with the krill research program for the past ten years tending the krill and collecting them from the wild on a number of voyages. It had been clear for some time that the old aquarium was no longer adequate for research needs. Mr King deferred his PhD studies to concentrate on designing a better laboratory for the AAD's needs and took charge of the project. His knowledge obtained in making the old krill maintenance system run, despite it being well past its use by date, equipped him well to oversee the design of the new and much more complicated Antarctic Marine Research Aquarium.

It has been a long and exhausting process but due to Mr King's ingenuity and perseverance the AAD now has a state-of-the-art facility that is second to none.


Head contractor:
Hansen Yuncken Pty Ltd, Tasmania.

T.C. Electrical Pty. Ltd., Tasmania.

Weatherfoil Pty. Ltd., Tasmania.

Mick Abbott Plumbing, Tasmania.

ACS/BMS Systems:
TAC Pacific, Victoria.

Heffernan Button Voss, Tasmania.

The Krill program

Antarctic krill Euphausia superba are a critical component of the Antarctic marine ecosystem and have been the subject of the region's largest fishery since the 1970s. Understanding the functioning of the marine ecosystem and what is needed for sustainable management of the krill fishery requires scientific knowledge of this central species. Prior to the 1970s there had only been a handful of studies on living krill and little was known about its detailed life history or behaviour. With the rise of the fishery in the early 1980s there was a concerted international effort to develop a better quantitative understanding of many important features of the biology of Antarctic krill so that the fishery could be managed based on sound scientific information. As part of this effort the Australian Antarctic Division developed a krill research program. This involved research at sea and in a purpose-built series of cold laboratories at the AAD's headquarters in Kingston. This was the first facility for krill research to be established outside the Antarctic. Many important aspects of krill's life history have been investigated at the Kingston laboratory including longevity, ageing, growth, moulting, development and reproduction.

Live Antarctic krill have been continuously maintained at the Australian Antarctic Division for experimental purposes since 1981. The population of krill is replenished each year with wild caught specimens from the Southern Ocean. This has allowed researchers at the AAD to study the behaviour and physiology of krill all year round.

The new Antarctic Marine Research Aquarium facility includes two laboratories: one for holding krill and other marine species, a plant room for filtration equipment and a preparation room for the production of food and monitoring of water quality; and a toxicology laboratory. There are also connection points to enable container labs from research vessels to be maintained alongside the facility.

The complex's 18C ambient air temperature will provide a more favourable environment for both staff and experimental equipment. The seawater, collected at Eaglehawk Neck, is chilled through heat exchangers to maintain the tanks at 0C and is recirculated every hour through an array of filtration devices.

Prior to filtration, the seawater is warmed against the flow of filtered tank water in a counter-current heat exchanger to raise the water temperature to 20C. At this temperature the rate of biological filtration is considerably higher than was previously possible allowing more efficient removal of toxic ammonia waste.

Commonwealth of Australia