by Dr. Mercola
Over the past few months, news sources like Times Online have warned that krill oil consumption by health-conscious consumers may be endangering wildlife due to over-harvesting, citing incomplete information reported by National Geographic.
Naturally, this idea has many krill oil consumers worried. Are we stealing the main food staple of hundreds of birds and marine animals and causing the whales to starve?
If this were true -- I would stop selling krill in a nanosecond, but nothing could be further from the truth.
As you will soon find out, National Geographic failed to do its homework, because quite simply, krill is the largest biomass in the world. If you were to weigh the population of any animal on earth -- any fish, whale, insect, bird, rat, or even humans -- krill would still weigh the most.
There are simply more krill on the planet than any other creature. They are in little danger of over harvesting anytime soon.
National Geographic Being Contacted for Correction
Neptune Technologies & Bioresources Inc., the manufacturer of the premier krill oil supplement on the market, has actually requested that National Geographic update their krill fact sheet so as not to mislead the public, but that has not happened as of yet.
According to National Geographic, there are recent studies showing that Antarctic krill stocks may have dropped by 80 percent since the 1970s.
This one sentence was quickly reiterated on a number of sites; eagerly snapped up by those offering competing omega-3 products such as Moxxor, an extract of green-lipped mussels, as a reason to switch.
However, the National Geographic piece also points out that scientists attribute these declines in part to ice cover loss caused by global warming, which may have reduced ice-algae -- krill’s primary food source.
Nowhere do they mention over harvesting.
But of course, it’s easy to jump to conclusions based on one sentence, especially in light of krill oil’s rising popularity as being one of the most outstanding sources of omega-3 fats on the planet.
The Truth About Krill Harvesting
The truth is that not only is krill the largest biomass in the world, but krill harvesting is one of the best regulated on the planet, using strict international precautionary catch limit regulations that are reviewed regularly to assure sustainability.
Krill can be found in all oceans, but Antarctic krill is by far the most abundant. The Antarctic krill biomass is under the management of an international organism of 25 countries called the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
This is the ONLY official and reliable international organism involved in the management of sustainable krill fishery and the monitoring of krill stock, and no shortage of krill has ever been forecasted by CCAMLR.
According to CCAMLR, the decline in krill catches in 1992 was due to economic factors, not because of an actual decline in the stocks of krill being fished.
At that time, many krill fisheries shifted over to finfish fisheries, and the break-up of the Soviet Union, which had dominated the krill fishing industry, resulted in reduced krill catches. Likewise, in 1998 the economic crisis in Asia further reduced the demand for krill.
But along with global warming and natural, cyclical fluctuations in krill stock, these factors were in no way related to over-harvesting.
Krill Harvesting is One of the Most Eco-Friendly on the Planet
The ‘precautionary approach’ was implemented by the CCAMLR in order to minimize risks associated with harvesting practices in conditions of uncertainty. It is an ‘ecosystem approach,’ meaning it takes into account ecological links between different species and natural variability, such as the natural, cyclical rise and fall in reproduction of a species, for example.
Antarctic krill has now been harvested for 47 years, starting in 1961, with an historical peak harvest of just under 529,000 tons for the 1981/82 season. However, the mean annual catch rate from 2002 to 2007 was less than 120,000 tons a year.
Meanwhile, many studies show the biomass of Antarctic krill range from 170 million to 740 million tons, averaging around 420 million tons; a standing stock with an annual reproduction rate of several hundred million tons.
This ensures a very large standing stock of renewable krill for both natural predators and human use.
To put this all into perspective, the precautionary catch limit for 2008 set by the CCAMLR, based on recent surveys of krill stock, was 6.6 million tons. (This catch limit takes into account the ecosystem as a whole to protect the environment.) However, even at that, less than 2 percent of the precautionary catch limit has actually been harvested on any given year!
Krill Harvest is a Tiny Fraction of What Whales Consume!
With the estimated baleen whale consumption being approximately 85 million tons per year, the actual mean total annual catch equals a mere 0.14 percent of the whales’ consumption.
It’s also worth noting that of the total krill harvest each year, almost 88 percent of the catches are used for sport fishing bait and krill meal for fish farms. The rest, 12 percent, is sold for human consumption, with less than 1 percent being processed into krill oil supplements.
To say that using krill oil supplements is in any way endangering the whales and other wildlife is clearly out of line in light of these facts.
Krill Oil is Your BEST Source of Omega-3s
In my view, krill oil is clearly your best option when it comes to obtaining important high quality animal based omega-3 fats. It contains essential EPA and DHA in a double chain phospholipid structure that makes it far more absorbable than the omega-3s in fish oil.
Krill oil also contains vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin D and canthaxanthin, which is a potent anti-oxidant. Research has shown the anti-oxidant potency of krill oil is, in terms of ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorptance Capacity) values, 48 times more potent than fish oil.
Sadly, Misinformation and Deception Exists Even in the Natural Food Area
So, while competing products may try to misinform you with stories like this, the fact is that krill -- properly harvested, and tested for contaminations -- remains the most incredible source of omega-3s on the planet.
And, no ... taking a krill oil supplement to optimize your own health will NOT starve any other species into extinction.
HEWITT R.P., J.L. WATKINS, M. NAGANOBU et al., 2002. Setting a precautionary catch limit for Antarctic krill. Oceanography, Volume 15 (3): 26-33. Published by The Oceanography Society, MD, USA.
NICOL S & Y ENDO. 1999. Krill fisheries: Development, management and ecosystem management. Aquatic Living Resources 12 (2): 105-120.
SIEGEL V. 2005. Distribution and population dynamics of Euphausia superba: summary of recent findings. Polar Biol. 29: 1-22.
SMETACEK V. & S. NICOL. 2005. Polar ocean ecosystems in a changing world. Nature 437: 362-368.