New Antarctic marine research aquarium equals best in world

The new Antarctic Marine Research Aquarium at the Australian Antarctic Division was officially opened in May by the Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic, Dr Sharman Stone.

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.

Dr 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.

"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.

Research on krill has been especially challenging in the past, since krill 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.

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

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