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Natural Foods Merchandiser

Whole Foods discontinues krill, citing 'sustainability issues'

Whole Foods' Markets will discontinue all krill supplements for sustainability concerns. Industry officials are crying foul and responding with research suggesting otherwise.

“We’re shocked,” said Mickey Schuett, director of sales/marketing at Azantis Inc., a Boulder, Colo. supplier of krill oil. “Whole Foods certainly doesn’t have the right information” about regulations in the krill fishing industry.

In a statement, which is available in Whole Foods’ stores, the Austin, Texas-based company said:
“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.”

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, a multinational treaty organization that includes the U.S. and the European Union, was organized in 1982 to manage krill fisheries and set quotas. A report by the organization in February said that it had changed some quotas and restricted certain fishing areas.

“These important interim measures are designed to better protect krill predators from the impacts of fishing,” the CCAMLR said in its report.

The organization also put scientific observers on each of the nine fishing trawls authorized to fish for krill. The observers monitor the catches and ensure compliance with regulations.

Adam Ismail, executive director of the trade association Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s, sent an email to Whole Foods asking to discuss the issue and offering to provide information from CCAMLR and other organizations.

"Since EPA and DHA are such important nutrients for human health, we often work on issues to ensure that consumers have the broadest access possible to EPA and DHA products. A key part of this work is understanding the sustainability of the various sources of EPA and DHA," Ismail said in the email. He offered to send Whole Foods documents from CCAMLR and explain the industry's efforts to keep krill as sustainable as possible.

Schuett of Azantis calls krill “the most sustainable marine life in the ocean. Less than 2 percent of all krill fished is used for human consumption and 98 percent goes to fish meal.” Schuett said Whole Foods’ action won’t affect his company’s business and isn’t likely to have much of an impact on the krill market.

"If you’re looking at the sustainability between krill oil and fish oil, krill oil is much more sustainable long-term and probably has one of the most regulated harvesting methods going on currently,” saidHeather Isely, an owner of Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, which sells krill oil.

Isely said the Lakewood, Colo.-based company looks at issues such as sustainability when researching its products. “Things do change,” she said. “So we keep our eye on the issues.”

Proponents of krill oil also say it is more absorbable and has a higher antioxidant content than regular fish oil because of the way krill oil hooks together the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA.

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