Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 (GOED) executive director Adam Ismail highlighted work by the body that monitors the Antarctic krill fishery, the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), that demonstrated the fishery was well managed.
The letter reached Texas-based Whole Foods management on Monday last week, but as yet Whole Foods have not engaged with Ismail or the krill industry on its contents.
“CCAMLR is a unique organization because it involves the governments of many nations, as well as concerned stewardship organizations, like Greenpeace,” Ismail wrote.
“CCAMLR actually just implemented new measures in November for the krill fishery, which further protects predator species that feed on krill, as well as protecting the krill fishery itself.”
In implementing the ban Whole Foods posted a statement in its stores which read:
“Krill are an important source of food for marine animals including penguins, seals, and whales in the Antarctic. Declines of some predator populations in the areas where the krill fishery operates suggest that fishery management needs to better understand how to evaluate the prey requirements of other marine species in order to set sustainable catch levels for krill.
Consequently, at present we are choosing to discontinue the sale of krill supplements as we continue to evaluate this emerging research. Please consider alternatives to krill oil supplements such as fish oil or astaxanthin supplements.”
A Whole Foods spokesperson said the company had sent the statement to GOED, but could not confirm if any other negotiations had taken place, nor which krill supplement brands had been yanked from shelves across its 270 North American and UK stores.
While there have been documented concerns about the effect on krill populations and whales and other sea mammals that feed on them from fishing for krill in the feeding zones for those animals, the krill industry maintains there are only nine vessels licensed to harvest krill in the Antarctic, and all of these operate to CCAMLRguidelines.
Daniel Fabricant, PhD, the vice president of global government and scientific affairs at the Washington DC-based Natural Products Association (NPA), expressed some sympathy with the over-fishing argument if krill were in fact being fished from predator species sources, but reiterated the controlled nature of the fishery.
“I would imagine that the removal of krill at the source has the potential to alter the environment of these species and may pose a threat to the sustainability of local marine mammal populations,” he said.
“That said, I believe the bulk of the marine oils that are in commerce are produced either through farms or regulatory programs like the CCAMLR, so that’s where the real question regarding sustainability would appear to reside.”
He called for the parties to come together for discussions.
Animal v human
Those working in krill like Mickey Schuett, the director of sales at Colorado-based Azantis, expressed a certain bafflement at Whole Foods’ decision.
“When you consider about 99 percent of the krill catch is used in animal feed and only one percent for human nutrition, this ban seems hard to justify,” he told NutraIngredients-USA.com, while pointing to the status of the CCAMLR protocols that included placing independent scientific observers on all nine vessels to monitor harvesting practices.
“I think this will end up being a positive for the krill industry because in the end what it is doing is spotlighting how well managed the industry is.”
Rudi Moerck, the chief executive officer of krill supplier Valensa described the Whole Foods action as “non-scientific and emotional”, and wondered about the ethics of the ban when it continued to carry products containing the likes of salmon and herring, fisheries that have had their sustainability questioned.