Cephalopods (squid and octopus)

Squid and octopus are known to be extremely important organisms in the Antarctic ecosystem. They are prey for sperm whales, seals, penguins, sea birds and fishes. The Southern Hemisphere population of sperm whales consumes, for example, about 50 million tonnes of squid each year, an amount approximating to 75 per cent of the world's current annual fisheries catch.

As predators, the cephalopods could perhaps consume about 100 million tonnes of Antarctic krill per year. It is difficult to assess the resource potential of cephalopods, which are strong swimmers with net-avoidance capabilities that have prevented adequate sampling for biological study. Special sampling efforts will be required to fill in the gap of knowledge that exists for these organisms.

At present no commercial fishery for cephalopods exists in the Southern Ocean, but an active Japanese fishery has harvested about 20,000 tonnes per year in New Zealand waters.

Birds, seals and whales are discussed in another section. It is important here to mention that they derive their food either directly from the sea or at one step removed from it. Hence, they are an important part of the marine ecosystem.


 • Prehistory
More background information on the prehistory of Antarctica.
 • Antarctic Adventure 1997
Information on the geography and climate of Antarctica.