However, you can have the health benefits of krill, without risking the Antarctic marine environment
by Ashley Avci
Antarctica is considered one of the last pristine environments in the world, yet it now faces a new threat from industrial scale krill fishing. Krill were the last abundant species on earth that were free from human exploitation. Health supplement companies use the species’ “abundance” as a means to justify their harvest, however, they’re abundant for a very good reason. Predators of krill, such as whales, can consume up for 4 tonnes of krill in a single day - that’s 40 million individuals. I use the term ‘individuals’ because krill are a very misrepresented and undervalued species.
This small crustacean reaches sexual maturity at 2 years of age and can live up to 11 years old. Krill are not as dispensable as industry suggests. In fact, they’re the beating heart of the Antarctic. So much so, that without krill the Antarctic ecosystem would cease to exist, as we know it. Every marine creature in the region directly or indirectly relies on krill as a food source. Therefore, as krill populations decline, so will the species that rely on them, such as whales, penguins and seals.
Which brings us to the use of krill oil for omega-3 vitamin supplements. Omega-3s are found to be vital nutrients for heart, brain, eye and joint health. Companies green-wash consumers by maintaining that the krill sourced for their products is eco because its “from clean Antarctic waters,” and “sustainable”. The term "eco" is at times an attempt for “guilt free consuming” or “business as usual”.
Given krill populations have collapsed by a terrifying 80% since the 1970s. How can harvesting of krill at any level be deemed “sustainable” or “eco”. There is no justification for the harvesting of krill given its current population. Climate change, ocean acidification and plastic pollution are major threats to krill populations. Add krill fishing to the equation, and we shoot another arrow into the heart of the Antarctic.
Krill-dependant penguin species in studied colonies have declined by 50% in the past thirty years and global trends show that seabird populations have crashed by 70 percent since 1950s. Despite these harrowing facts, companies continue to insist that krill harvesting is sustainable. In order to support their claim, companies boast Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification, however the certification process for krill is deeply flawed. The Marine Stewardship Council doesn’t take into consideration the effects of climate change, ocean acidification or ecosystem impacts of krill fishing.
In addition, companies market krill as a ‘cleaner’ alternative to fish oil, a benefit from the ‘pristine’ nature of the Antarctic environment. This is known as a ‘unique selling proposition’. Vitamin supplement companies use these propositions to convince consumers that their products are better than others, such as their very own fish oil products. The gross reality is, the ocean is full of toxic metals and plastic pollution. Anything consumed from the sea is contaminated; it’s just a matter of how much.
We are fortunate that there are several plant-based, cleaner alternatives. Flax is a wonder-seed, leading as the top source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. You can supplement flax in a capsule form or incorporate it in your everyday diet. It’s accessible and easy to add to several meals, via oil or ground form and put in salads, smoothies or pasta. Similarly Chia seeds provide not only a great source of omega-3s but also provide fibre, magnesium, protein and calcium to name a few. Both of these seeds are small and inhabit no nasty flavours, fish burps, aftertaste or toxins.
Several fruits and vegetables also contain omega-3s. Leafy greens such as spinach and kale contain high amounts of omega-3 vitamins, along with the cabbage family. Fresh fruits such as berries, mangoes and honeydew melon also contain the vitamin, with blueberries topping the list with the highest source of omega-3. Oils, such as mustard and canola oil, beans and some forms of rice also contain the vitamin. The list is by no means exhaustive, however, illustrates a very different image to the one that billion-dollar corporations are drawing for consumers. And why would these companies tell you otherwise. They’re making millions of dollars from the destruction of Antarctica, by taking food from the mouths of whales, seals, penguins and seabirds.
The world’s oceans are predicted to collapse by 2048. Vitamin supplement companies don’t seem to be doing anything about it – but you can. As consumers, we have the power to tell companies, what we will and won’t support. Don’t support the decimation of this rare ecosystem and help us conserve its extraordinary species for future generations.
Operation Krill is Sea Shepherd’s first of it’s kind in Australia: you can support the campaign by pledging to be krill-free and joining 10,000 + people who have already signed our petition. Be a voice for the Antarctic by asking Blackmores to remove krill supplements from their shelves today.
Take action now, sign our petition to tell Blackmores to end sale of Krill pills!
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