The numbers say it all: According to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 70 per cent of the world's major fisheries are fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted.
Statistics like this make the recent Friends of the Sea (FOS) certification by omega-3 supplier EPAX all the more important. The certification acknowledges the Norwegian company's commitment to sustainable fishing practices. FOS is the world's largest sustainable seafood certifier.
EPAX is a vertically integrated company that sources its raw material, pelagic fish (anchovy), from all-wild sources within its own fisheries in Peru. "Our fishing grounds are strictly regulated by the Peruvian authorities," explained CEO Bjorn Refsum. "Quotas are established based on historical Peruvian data over the last 20 years and it has proved that our fishery is sustainable with no decrease in mass."
Fishing is terminated once the total quota is reached, and it is suspended during spawning periods. "A purse seiner fishery net is also used, which targets only a specific anchovy school. This allows minimal by-catches," Refsum said.
Other fish-oil suppliers have also earned FOS certification. They include: Omega Proteins Inc (USA), Sovapec & Maromega (Maroc) and GC Rieber Oils (Norway). In 2008, FOS also certified its first fishfeed supplier: Cooperative Le Gouessant.
What is unique about EPAX's certification is that it is effectively certified on two levels. EPAX is part of the Austevoll Seafood ASA Group. It receives its raw material from sister company Austral Group SAA Group in Peru, which was previously certified by FOS. "EPAX is thus certified on two levels throughout the entire supply chain," said Gunilla Traberg, marketing manager. "This provides for maximum quality assurance and control."
Paolo Bray, director of FOS, praised the quality of the Peruvian fisheries overall. "Management of the anchovies fishery in Peru has improved dramatically over the years, and it is now considered globally as one of the best-managed fisheries," he said.