Antarctic krill Euphausia superba (hereafter ‘krill’) occur in regions undergoing rapid environmental change, particularly loss of winter sea ice. During recent years, harvesting of krill has increased, possibly enhancing stress on krill and Antarctic ecosystems. Here we review the overall impact of climate change on krill and Antarctic ecosystems, discuss implications for an ecosystem-based fisheries management approach and identify critical knowledge gaps. Sea ice decline, ocean warming and other environmental stressors act in concert to modify the abundance, distribution and life cycle of krill. Although some of these changes can have positive effects on krill, their cumulative impact is most likely negative. Recruitment, driven largely by the winter survival of larval krill, is probably the population parameter most susceptible to climate change. Predicting changes to krill populations is urgent, because they will seriously impact Antarctic ecosystems. Such predictions, however, are complicated by an intense inter-annual variability in recruitment success and krill abundance. To improve the responsiveness of the ecosystem-based management approach adopted by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), critical knowledge gaps need to be filled. In addition to a better understanding of the factors influencing recruitment, management will require a better understanding of the resilience and the genetic plasticity of krill life stages, and a quantitative understanding of under-ice and benthic habitat use. Current precautionary management measures of CCAMLR should be maintained until a better understanding of these processes has been achieved.