Is Your Omega 3 Supplement Risking the Antarctic Wildlife?
Photo: Krill cluster in vast multitudes, known as blooms in the waters of the Southern Ocean I encourage you to please watch at least the last two minutes of the below video of the migratory whales feeding on krill before reading this blog.
What watching this 2 minutes did for me was enable me to connect for the love I feel for incredible Southern Ocean animals. I know the huge majority of the population also feel this towards the whales — hence why Australia is so vocal against the hunting of them... we love the whales... and the seals and penguins too...
I don't feel that same connection towards the krill but if you care about the world’s whales, seals, albatrosses and penguins, then you, we, need to care about krill because a b perspective is needed when considering fishing it. Harvesting krill is an ecological disaster waiting to happen.
Krill is a tiny crustacean, like a shrimp, and it forms part of the plankton level in our oceans. Its at the bottom of the food chain so huge numbers of other species — whether they eat krill or not — are directly or indirectly affected by how abundant they are.
Krill are the Southern Ocean's keystone species, meaning the entire ecosystem depends on them, providing over 96% of the caloric needs of sea-birds and marine mammals. They are already vulnerable to climate change as polar regions are suffering first and the fastest with temperatures rising 2.5 degrees celsius in the last 50 years and sea ice cover rapidly dwindling around the Antarctic Peninsula.
Adding extra pressure by fishing out ginormous amounts of the very basis of the food web is a seriously crazy move.
Krill feeds our whales, our penguins and our seals.
No krill - no them.
Krill oil is a relatively new consumer product but its popularity is growing at a rapid rate — by now I am sure you would have seen it as an "omega 3 oil" supplement. In 2012 in Australia over 20 million capsules of krill oil worth over $15 million were being consumed annually.
However currently the majority of krill caught is used as fish feed for aquaculture.
Even though in the marketing of the fishery and krill products words such as "sustainable" and "abundant" are consistently used, the existing data on krill abundance, reproduction and population variables are extremely limited and therefore they really should not be using such terms. Its "Eco-label" is built upon three basic principles: the health of the stock, the environmental impact of the fishery and traceability. Personally I don't understand how can a fishery that is at its core is a farmed fish-feed could deserve an Eco label!? It is also why I dismiss the Blackmore's and other companies claims of being sustainable.
Over the last 5 years , the annual krill catch has jumped from just more than 100,000 tons to several million tons per year. Previously, it was hard to catch and then later process large amounts of krill because the enzymes inside them breakdown quickly. New processing techniques by the Norwegian company Aker BioMarine means they can now fish in the antarctic Southern Ocean, sucking up massive volumes — literally vacuuming them up-at unpredicted rates. The below video gives a biased, yet inside look to the Southern Ocean krill operation.
Companies from Norway, China, South Korea, Japan and Chile dominate krill fishing and expansion of the fishery seems inevitable with aquaculture the fastest growing farming sector and powerful marketing campaigns behind the pharmaceutical products.
Fisheries have already depleted much of the world’s oceans.
Now they are going after what’s left at the bottom of the food chain — krill.
BioMarine's Krill Fishing and Processing Factory Ship
There is something very unsettling to me about seeing industrial factory ships disturb the scenic, rugged landscapes and South Polar wildlife. It screams sanctuary to me and luckily the land is, it's surrounding ocean and the life in it requires the same protection.
"There is still time to right the missed chance in the Antarctic Treaty. Where the continent is for now safe from exploitation for minerals or military use, the seas surrounding it should also be protected from all exploitation. The CCAMLR region should be turned into a zero-catch marine reserve." Sea Shepherd
Fishing in Antarctic waters is regulated by CCAMLR, The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. The 25 members of CCAMLR include the key krill-fishing countries. A number of member countries have been attempting to establish Marine Protected Areas in the Southern Ocean for every year, but decisions have consistently been vetoed by members with significant fishing operations. In 2014, Russia and China vetoed the fourth attempt to protect the Antarctic waters from fishery.
“This year, CCAMLR has behaved like a fisheries organisation instead of an organisation dedicated to conservation of Antarctic waters” Greenpeace
For a more thorough look into the holes that exist in calling the krill fisheries sustainable, the MSC certification and the actual detrimental impacts of krill fishing I recommend the publications by Greenpeace and The Sum of Us whom are vocally against krill fishing for good reason.
If we can't rely on the self-regulation (which why would you when they have a financial investment in the industry) then we must personally take responsibility.
Don't buy krill oil products and urge your local health food stores or supermarkets to do the same. They may not even be aware of the problem.
To protect commercial species which feed on krill in 2010, California banned fishing for krill in state waters. Whole Foods Market withdrew krill products from its shelves, citing a decline in predatory sea animals — whales, penguins and seals — in its decision. If they can stand up to protect the wildlife, there is no reason others can't...
Next blog I will give my recommendations of how to get your omega 3 oils cruelty-free! If you know friends or practitioners that use krill oil, please share this article with them.
And just to end on a happy note and because I love kids movies, here is a short fun extraction from Happy Feet 2... Brad Pitt as krill!