Krill Oil: The 'Green' Alternative in Omega-3 Supplements for Pets

Krill Oil Supplement

Story at-a-glance -

  • If you and your family take omega-3 supplements, you might wonder how 'green' they are. If your supplements are marine based, are they safe from toxic contaminants? And what about overharvesting and damage to the ecosystem?
  • A few years ago, there was a bit of a disinformation campaign launched around the sustainability of krill populations in light of the growing popularity of krill oil as an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Overharvesting was the central concern. Unfortunately, some of the misinformation that came out of that effort is still floating around in cyberspace.
  • If you're a fan of krill oil for your family – both the two- and four-legged members – rest assured that not only is krill the largest biomass in the world, but harvesting of krill is among the best-regulated activities on the planet.

By Dr. Becker

I recently ran across an article in Veterinary Practice News (VPN) headlined “How ‘Green’ Are Your Omega-3 Supplements?

As you can probably guess from the title, the author is questioning not only whether the explosion of omega-3 supplements on the market are generally safe and effective, she is also concerned with the cost to the ecosystem of overexploitation of resources.

I think this is a good topic to take up with readers here at Mercola Healthy Pets, since many of you use Dr. Mercola’s krill oil products for the human members of your family, and also now use our excellent new Krill Oil for Pets, which comes from the same source.

Fish Oil Safety Concerns

In the VPN article, author Narda Robinson, DO, DVM, asserts:

“For ‘One Health’ professionals, a cost-benefit analysis of the safety and effectiveness of omega-3 supplements should take into account stress on the ecosystem through overexploitation of resources along with the risk of contaminating patients’ systems with cancer-causing chemicals.” [If you’re unfamiliar with the One Health Initiative, you can read about it here.]

Dr. Mercola and I couldn’t agree more with this statement, and in fact, he has addressed the overexploitation issue in the past stating, “If this were true -- I would stop selling krill in a nanosecond, but nothing could be further from the truth.” I’ll get back to that subject shortly.

In her article, Dr. Robinson discusses polluted oceans and how toxic substances like mercury, pesticides, organochlorines and radionuclides wind up in fish and fish oil, and ultimately in the fish oil supplements people take every day.

She also talks about the very real possibility of the presence of radioactive fish resulting from tsunami damage to Japan’s Fukushima nuclear facility.

Again, Dr. Robinson is absolutely correct about the very real health dangers associated with consuming contaminated fish and fish products.

Krill Harvesting Disinformation Campaign

Robinson feels perhaps the biggest threat to our oceans today is overexploitation of resources. She then goes on to say that while krill oil once seemed a viable omega-3 source we could harvest without guilt, she now feels that “… humans’ insatiable appetite for aquatic sources of omega-3 fatty acids along with global warming are threatening the delicate Antarctic ecosystem and, ultimately, the survival of krill and the many marine animals that depend on them for food.”

Robinson cites as her source for this assertion a 2008 article from The Guardian1. Unfortunately, right around the time of The Guardian article, there was a bit of a disinformation campaign in play regarding the supposed overharvesting of krill, and I’m afraid Dr. Robinson may have fallen prey to it.

In an early 2009 article, Dr. Mercola addressed the sudden flood of news warnings that krill oil consumption was endangering wildlife due to overharvesting. He cited an article by National Geographic2 that contained incomplete information.

According to NatGeo, there were studies indicating Antarctic krill stocks may have dropped by 80 percent since the 1970s. This one rather disturbing sentence was picked up by a number of sites and retailers selling competing omega-3 products made from sources other than krill.

The Truth about Krill Harvesting

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 more krill on the planet than any other creature. They are in little danger of overharvesting anytime soon.

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 regularly reviewed to assure sustainability.

Krill are found in all oceans, but they are most abundant in the Antarctic. The Antarctic krill biomass is under the management of an international organization of 25 countries called the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)3.

The CCAMLR is the only official and reliable international organization involved in the management of sustainable krill fisheries and the monitoring of krill stock, and no shortage of krill has ever been forecasted by CCAMLR.

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!

It’s also worth noting that of the total krill harvested 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.

Why Krill Oil is the Best Source of Omega-3s for Your Dog or Cat

Aside from the fact that krill are a thriving, highly sustainable food source, there are specific reasons why it is an optimal source of omega-3s for your pet.

  • Krill is very well-absorbed, so your pet only needs about a fifth the dose of regular fish oil to receive the same benefits.
  • Krill contains more EPA than fish oil – 240 mg/g in krill vs. 180 mg/g in fish oil
  • Krill delivers its abundant EPA and DHA as phospholipids directly into your pet’s cells
  • Krill provides natural antioxidant protection including vitamins A and E, plus astaxanthin and canthaxanthin
  • Krill do not accumulate heavy metals