Fish oil supplements not a threat to fish stocks
Overfishing will decline if we eat less industrially produced meat and buy less pet food. Anyone who cares about nature knows that urgent action is required to save our oceans and to put an end to overfishing. Some on the moral high ground mistakenly point an accusing finger at fish oil based food supplements in this respect. But what has now become clear? Less than 1 % of the catch is used for fish oil, whereas 39 times that amount is destined for cattle feed, farmed fish and pet food.
Indispensable Omega-3 fatty acids from fish
There’s no two ways about it: the body of the average Westerner has a distinct lack of the Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. This can lead to various disorders such as heart and cardiovascular disease, depression, ADHD and rheumatism related complaints. Providing they are of the highest quality and were produced with due respect for the natural environment, fish oil supplements are indispensable sources of EPA and DHA in the natural prevention of, and approach to, various disorders. The above can in fact be substantiated by hundreds of reliable studies.
Fish oil not the cause of overfishing
Approximately 1 million tons of deep sea fish are caught annually for the production of fish oil. That is barely 1 % of the total catch! Furthermore, estimates made in 2010 show that approximately 88 % of this amount is used as feed for farmed fish so that only 12 % of this original 1%, i.e. 0.12 % of the total catch is destined for fish oil in food supplements. This is small fry knowing that scientific reports indicate that approximately:
- 16.2 million tons of fish are sacrificed to be processed as fish meal into pig, poultry and cattle feed;
- 5.4 million tons of fish end up in pet food (for cats, dogs and fur-bearing animals);
- 18 million tons of fish end up in feed for farmed fish.
One thing is clear: overfishing could be significantly reduced if people would eat less industrially produced meat and bought less pet food..
No endangered fish species or krill
Those who produce fish oil supplements in an ethical fashion, are definitely making sure that only non threatened, small deep sea fish, such as mackerel and anchovies, are caught. That means no tuna, which is becoming increasingly scarce, and no cod, as too much fish has to be sacrificed in this case to produce sufficient Omega- 3 fatty acids. Furthermore, fish oil producers who respect the environment do not use krill. This shrimp like sea creature is a source of food for whales, penguins and seals. Since it has been discovered that the amount of Antarctic krill has been in severe decline since the seventies, in some areas by as much as 80%, it is assumed that its use will disrupt the Antarctic eco system even further.
Sources: De Silva SS, Turchini GM. Towards understanding the impacts of the pet food industry on world fish and seafood supplies. J Agric Environ Ethics 2008; 21(5):459-467.
Alder J, Campbell B, Karpouzi V, Kaschner K, Pauly D. Forage fish: from ecosystems to markets. Annu Rev Environ Resour 2008; 33:153-66. Campbell B, Alder J. Fishmeal and fish oil: production trade and consumption. 2006; p47-66 In: Alder J, Pauly D (eds.).
On the multiple uses of forage fish: from ecosystems to markets. Fisheries Centre Research Reports 14(3). Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia (ISSN