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The rise of sustainable supplements

Fish oil capsules supplements
Nicolas Guichoux, Global Commercial Director at the MSC explains the growth in popularity of MSC labelled fish oil supplements.
Nicolas Guichoux on March 9, 2016 - 10:10 am in Nutrition, Ocean health, Sustainable seafood
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Seafood is well known as a source of healthy oils and nutrients. Studies show that fish oils are good for your heart, brain and bones. Some claim that they can protect you from the effects of air pollution and reduce the signs of aging [1].

For many, eating certified sustainable fish as part of a balanced diet is an effective way of ensuring that we receive the nutrients, protein and oils we need. But there’s also a growing preference to supplement diet with fish based products in the form of Omega-3 rich fish oils.

These supplements provide the health benefits of eating fish in a convenient form which can be taken daily. However, with the raw materials often coming from the species at the bottom of the food chain, such as herring, anchovies and krill, it’s also important to ensure that they are being caught sustainably and without detriment to the marine environment.

Increasing demand for sustainable supplements

Supplements and oils are an important area of growth for the MSC. In the last five years, the number of fish oil products carrying the MSC ecolabel has grown from just 11 to over 360. In terms of volume this represents an increase of 3,250%, from eight tonnes in 2009/10 to more than 260 tonnes in 2014/15.

Demand for sustainable supplements

Number of MSC labelled sustainable supplements

This growth has been most significant in the United States which now accounts for more than 95% total sales of MSC certified supplements by volume.

As a result consumers now have a greater choice of fish oil supplements which are derived from certified sustainable fisheries.

Top 5 countries for sustainable supplements

Top 5 countries for MSC labelled supplements

Certified sustainable choices

Retailers including Walgreens (in the USA), Blackmores (in Australia) and Holland & Barrett (in the UK) now sell fish oil products with the MSC ecolabel, along with brands such as Schiff MegaRed, Actilife, Vitalize, Dr Mercola, Wiley’s Finest and NutriGold.

Most popular amongst MSC labelled supplement products are krill (49%), pollock (35%) and hake (6%) oils.

The fish in these products can be traced back to MSC certified fisheries which have been independently assessed to meet the world’s most credible and widely recognised standards for sustainable wild fishing. These fisheries are well managed, minimise their impacts on the environment and fish sustainably so that seafood supplies are safeguarded for future generations.

Growing supply

With growing awareness of the need for environmental protection and sustainability, particularly amongst young educated consumers, more retailers and brands are seeking MSC certification for their products. As a result, more of the fisheries which produce the raw ingredients for fish oil supplements are entering assessment to become certified to the MSC Standard.

Currently around four percent of the global production of raw material for supplements and fish meal comes from MSC certified fisheries responsible for catching cod, hake, herring, krill, pollock, salmon and sardine. This supply could double in the next 12 to 18 months as other fisheries such as Faeroese mackerel, Danish North Sea sprat and Atlantic mackerel progress through MSC assessment.

Species in supplements

Species in MSC certified supplements

Future for sustainable supplements

With MSC research showing that 9 in 10 seafood shoppers believe ocean sustainability to be important, and environmental NGOs calling for greater accountability amongst fish oil producers and brands, it’s likely that demand for certified supplements will grow.

As the most credible and globally recognised standard and ecolabelling program for sustainable seafood, the MSC is poised to support positive change within this sector.

> Find MSC labelled products

> Find a supplier of MSC certified seafood

> Find out more about how the MSC is helping to drive change in the way our oceans are fished


[1] http://www.chatelaine.com/health/wellness/the-benefits-of-fish-oil-seven-surprising-ways-it-improves-your-health/

Nicolas Guichoux

Nicolas is the MSC's Global Commercial Director.

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