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Krill Oil FAQs

Krill Oil FAQ's: How is NOW’s Krill harvested?

Krill is a generic term used to designate a number of deep water marine crustacean species; a form of shellfish. It looks like miniature shrimp, ranging between one and six centimeters in length. These 85 species represent the planet's most abundant animal biomass, found in active zones that may extend over several square kilometers. Our Neptune Krill Oil (NKO®) is a patented material that comes from Neptune Biotech. Neptune sources its krill from the cold waters of the Antarctic Ocean.

Many studies have been undertaken which show that the biomass of Antarctic krill, one of the world's most abundant biomasses, may amount to 400-420 million tonnes (tons). Its annual natural reproduction cycle provides krill to offset natural mortality, feeds predators, provides harvest for animal feed, and supplies food for people.

The management and control of krill harvesting is overseen by the 25-state member Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which is the official international organization responsible for krill fishery management. The precautionary catch limits on the krill fishery are under constant review by the Scientific Committee of CCAMLR, which uses an ecosystem approach to management.

The precautionary catch limit set by the CCAMLR is 6.6 million tons for 2010 and is reviewed annually. It was increased from 4.9 million tons in 2005/06 based on the results of recent surveys. Less than 120,000 tons of the annually set total catch limit of 6.6 million tons are harvested by fisheries. By contrast, Antarctic baleen whales are estimated to consume 85 million tons per year. Less than 3% of the precautionary catch limit is actually harvested, and only a tiny percentage of that harvest is used to make krill oil dietary supplements.

Not only is the krill harvest overseen by scientists stationed on each ship who report to an independent regulatory commission, but the amount of krill harvested for human nutrition is only about 2% of the total harvest, with the vast majority going into animal feed.

The following quotes from various reputable sources explain how Antarctic krill is harvested with respect to sustainability; the numbers vary with the source/date of each citation

"The prospect of a free-for-all fishery for Antarctic krill led to the signing of a unique fishing treaty in 1981. This is the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), designed to protect the Antarctic ecosystem from the consequences of a rapidly expanding krill fishery. CCAMLR set a limit of 1.5 million tons on the catch of krill in the South Atlantic (where almost all of the krill has been caught recently) and a limit of 390,000 tons for the Indian Ocean. These limits are much higher than the current catch levels but this is a reflection of the huge size of the resource and of the pre-emptive approach to management that CCAMLR was designed to take. Market demand has been the limiting factor since the fishery began and catch has remained at a fraction of what are considered highly precautionary limits."
Nicol, S. & Endo, Y. Krill Fisheries: Development, Management and Ecosystem Implications. Aquat. Living Resour. 12 (2) (1999) 105-120.

"Scientists estimate that 1.5 million tons of krill can be harvested without impacting krill predators (XVI CCAMLR). Currently, less than 80,000 tons of krill are harvested annually (XVI CCAMLR)."
Secretariat of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), which includes over 100 organizations around the world, is based in Washington, DC.

CCAMLR-2000 KRILL SYNOPTIC SURVEY: *As applied by CCAMLR, precautionary catch limits set levels of catch which are considered low enough not to compromise future sustainability of the targeted stocks. They allow some level of fishing so as to provide essential information to be used in assessment of stock yield and in ascertaining the properties of the fishery. CCAMLR Conservation Measure 51-01 is a good example of such a measure and it sets an overall precautionary catch limit for krill in Area 48 as well as a “trigger level” which will be used to subdivide the overall limit into smaller areas in anticipation of a rapid expansion of the fishery.

"Sustainable krill harvest is estimated at 150 million tons, 1.5 times greater than the total number of fish and shellfish harvested annually from the world's oceans, according to the Australian Antarctic Division. CCAMLR set a precautionary limit of 1.5 million tons for krill harvest in the southwest Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean, although recent catches currently average 100,000 tons per year."
NASA Earth Sciences Division

"The new measures will also require more frequent reporting of krill catches, more rigorous notifications to participate in the krill fishery and new trigger levels so that once a certain catch level is reached, additional management tools will be introduced in order to protect those animals which feed on krill."
Australian government Department of the Environment and Water Resources

“The management of Antarctic krill fisheries occupied a major part of the recent meeting
of the Antarctic marine management organisation (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources or CCAMLR) in Hobart. Delegates at the meeting agreed to a range of new measures to control fishing for krill in various areas of the Antarctic.”
Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition

NOW Foods is a leader in sustainability

Of course, the people at NOW Foods are concerned about the environmental impact of the materials utilized to produce our natural products. We have won a number of environmental awards, including the Earth Flag and the Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Award. In the case of krill oil, customer concerns were aired and we took those concerns seriously. Our subsequent investigation has produced the information provided here. This gives us confidence that our krill is sourced from well-managed fisheries and does not have a significantly negative impact on the ocean’s ecosystem. The fact that CCAMLR, the responsible regulatory authority, has continued to increase its scrutiny and tighten the rules builds confidence in its ability to respond to any changes in ways that maintain environmental protections. In fact, it appears that krill harvesting from well-managed fisheries is one of the most sustainable ways to obtain essential omega-3 fatty acids from our oceans. The unique nutritional profile of krill, with three synergistic components (omega-3 fatty acids, astaxanthin, and phospholipids), makes it an especially bioavailable source of these important nutrients.

For more information about NOW Food’s environmental interests and achievements, please go to: www.nowfoods.com/AboutUs/Environmental-Efforts/

For more information on Neptune Biotech, go to their website.

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