Scientists in disbelief over discovery of world's largest fish-breeding area Researchers estimate 60 million icefish are hanging out in one ocean region of Antarctica.

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Researchers estimate that there are 60 million icefish hanging out in an ocean region of Antarctica.

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Icefish tend to nest in the Weddell Sea as part of a larger breeding colony.


The hottest club in Antarctica is at the bottom of the Weddell Sea. This is where all the cool icefish hang out. About 60 million of them. They’re there for one basic reason: to make more icefish.

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The Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) of the Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research in Germany announced the discovery of the world’s largest known fish breeding area in a statement on Thursday. A team aboard the research vessel Polarstern found an adorable massive icefish breeding colony while surveying the ocean shore with a camera system in February 2021.

Polarstern footage shows a seemingly endless expanse of icefish (Neopagatopsis aynah) nests. The AWI described a feeling of growing excitement and finally disbelief as the nests continued to appear. The researchers calculated a range of 93 square miles (240 square kilometers) and an estimated population of 60 million fish.

The team published their findings this week in the journal Current Biology, describing the colony as having a “globally unprecedented range.”

“The idea that such a large breeding area of ​​icefish in the Weddell Sea was previously undiscovered is completely fascinating,” said AWI biologist Autun Purser, lead author of the study.

Each nest may contain 1,500 to 2,500 eggs, guarded by an adult fish. Images and videos of the seabed show typical round nests in the presence of their guardians. Using data from the trackers, the researchers found that the icefish colony is also a popular destination for seals that are likely to make the residents’ snacks.

Researchers are urging the establishment of a regional marine protected area in Antarctica to prevent overfishing or invasive research and preserve the extraordinary habitat.

Antje Boetius, director of the AWI, who was not directly involved in the study, said: “So far, the remoteness and difficult sea ice conditions of this southern region of the Weddell Sea have protected the area, but due to the increasing pressure on the ocean and polar regions. Together, we must be more ambitious with marine conservation.”

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