Forward: Lana Salant
I have been a fan of Dr. Mercola for many years and bought, read and enjoyed his first book and believed in much of what he as to say with a few exceptions over the years. I admire him, have quoted him and linked to many of his articles as well. The following article asked for and written by a much admired colleague in Ocean conservation, eloquently puts into words my feelings about not just Dr. Mercola’s decision to sell Krill oil, but to ALL companies out there selling this precious Ocean cargo.
SUBJECT: ViabilIity of commercial harvest and use of Circumpolar Krill, Euphausia superba.
ATTN: Joseph Mercola
Dear Dr. Mercola,
I was asked by the founder of Ethical Omnivore Movement to address concerns regarding the harvest and use of Krill in an effort to create Krill oil products for the health industry. Specifically addressing concerns as to the viability of long term and short term commercial harvesting of this species and also the biological impact of creating a stronger market for this organism and how this will affect global oceans and organisms that rely heavily on krill as a staple to their diet and survival.
As you are undoubtedly aware of the impact to various organisms that specialize exclusively on a single food type or in such cases where that food type comprises a large majority of the diet of said organisms is very critical to ascertain and then monitor. Especially in the case of those species that are indicator species and highly endangered or threatened due to unnatural or human generated circumstances.
In the case of krill there are many areas of concern due to strongly indicated biomass fluctuations as recorded in sundry studies where population density and requirements of natural predators of krill are concerned. In every case it has been shown that population density of krill is at best precarious and that those organisms reliant on this food source for a predomination of their survival needs are already in a tenuous position.
The creation of stronger human markets and interest in krill for medical and homeopathic remedies and supplementation is in direct opposition to the well being of these organisms and at a time when global attention is focused on the rapid diminishment of marine species and ecosystem destruction this is not a productive direction to take any consumer market regardless of the profit potential which is generally the bottom line for the majority of ecological issues where man and nature come into contention.
There is a responsibility that we share as stewards of our planet toward the general health and sustainability of ecosystems and more specifically the well being of marine environments as our oceans are critical to the survival of all organisms on the planet whether terrestrial or aquatic.
To go over statistical studies it has been indicated that Euphausia superba is unable to be sustainably harvested and that companies currently actively engaged in said harvests are further jeopardizing already imperiled populations of this organism. The viewpoint of krill as an endless and unsustainable resource is erroneous and grossly irresponsible.
Studies in Krill biomass from 1926 – 2004 indicate broad fluctuation with an average derived biomass at 37.3 Million Tonnes. The CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) 2000 Survey contained 28% of total stock with a total biomass of 133 Mt in January-February 2000. Gross postlarval production is estimated at 342 – 536 Mt based on three independent methods.
Localized predation can range as high as a consumption need of 470 Mt annually. And this is ONLY localized to those regions. Such studies do not reflect additional predation needs as supplemental food sources for the various species from non polar regions including a variety of larger elasmobranches, cetaceans, and various pelagic species.
Those estimates may be as high as an additional 62 – 74 Mt approximately. Further research is needed to gather information as to the total consumption rates of all involved organisms at their current population models. But already one may note that annual krill biomass density is equaled or surpassed by those predator needs for consumption of this basic building block of the marine food chain.
In 1986 a global moratorium was placed on commercial harvesting of whales. Most of the rorqual species had been wiped out, many to the brink of extinction. Today blue whales are at 3% of their population density from before the turn of the last century. Many other species have undergone drastic reductions and the global community as a whole is strongly attempting to bring these creatures back from the brink.
Additionally sharks such as whale sharks and basking sharks and their relatives the manta rays consume and require large amounts of krill as a dietary supplement too. Given that sharks as a whole are among the most hunted animal order in all of human history it is important that such issues are not compounded by the medical industry or the fields of homeopathy and health supplements just to turn a profit or stock share.
Another issue which can arise is the ingestion of increasing contaminants and pollution by krill and other marine life in the form of heavy metals and persistent organic pollution such as DDT and PCBs. Testing of apex marine predators has shown a consistent rise in levels of larger organisms that have had time and have the body mass to acquire large doses of methyl mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, etc. The yields may be considerably smaller for creatures such as mysida shrimp and other crustacea. Never the less both benthic and pelagic species have been showing increasing levels of these hazardous toxins which brings into question the medical value of Krill oil and other related species being harvested from regions in which such pollution may be indicated.
As to the benefits of krill oil versus the side effects one may note that while doses of these items are smaller and that krill as an organism lower on the food chain will contain a reduced amount per body mass of these toxins and chemicals, studies have noted that krill are indeed subject to broad range contact with a variety of chemicals and pesticides. Organic and inorganic pollution does pose a health risk whereas medical benefits of krill oil as opposed to fish oil are nominal and not confirmed or endorsed by the FDA.
Further Atractylenolide, a chemical found in Krill oil, can cause nausea, dry mouth, and leave a bad taste in the mouth. Not enough is known about the use of atractylodes during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Women are advised by the American Medical Association to stay on the safe side and avoid use altogether. Atractylodes may cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to the Asteraceae/Compositae family. Members of this family include ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies, and many others. If one has allergies, they are advised to check with their healthcare provider before taking atractylodes.
Another danger shown in krill oil research is if one is taking anti-coagulants such as Warfarin (Coumadin) or high-dose aspirin, due to the blood-thinning properties of krill oil. Again it is recommended that consumers check with physicians before use.
Ultimately as someone advocating the use of Krill oil as a medical supplement such risks and the lowered level of contaminants will be set aside by those wishing to profit from krill and the use of this oil in health care. But the world’s oceans simply cannot long withstand the pressure of krill harvesting and the population sustainability is seriously in danger from such ventures.
This means that while there may be some viable benefits to the medical aspect of krill oil where human physiology and general health are concerned, the ramifications for our ocean ecology and the threat to cetaceans, elasmobranches, and other pelagic and benthic involved species is certainly a serious concern and potentially a huge ecological nightmare just waiting to happen. Additionally it is a threat to these species and therefore constitutes a serious violation of many of the global environmental protection acts, treaties, and accords, which are currently well established, and in place.
Given the potential for a huge media campaign by NGOs and environmental as well as Government and International concerns regarding the violation of such protections and accords do you believe that it is a good idea to persist with this advocacy and the production and harvesting of krill for any purpose other than profit?
It is easy for such organizations to come together and in closing I would remind you that public opinion and outcry where whales and other marine life are concerned is rapidly growing and very widespread. The association of your company and your person with the active practice of diminishment and reduction of whale populations and other marine life through the removal of their primary food source and mainstay is a crime not only of ethical arenas, rather it merits investigation, and criminal prosecution should findings become established and various involved organizations and Governments be brought to bear to hold up the established laws and conventions protecting the species in question from harm via consumerism such as shrimp oil can easily be relegated to given that there are many other pre-existing medicines and treatments for the handful of afflictions or aches that krill oil is supposed to aid with.
Please consider the ramifications of public awareness and media attention to the dangers posed to ocean organisms by your company and others out there producing these remedies and health aids while ignoring the damage to our dying oceans and marine ecosystems. The backlash for the plight of whales alone is massive.
At the end of the day the question is simple. Are you willing to imperil the oceans largest organisms and most hard-pressed and beloved creatures for the sake of increased profits through an unnecessary product? If the answer is yes then no further prompting and persuasion will avail anyone addressing this issue to you for your consideration. The only question after that is what will the world think when the afore mentioned groups become aware of the problem and the media is unleashed? I imagine that it will be a rough situation to deal with. Hopefully you are a conscientious person and a man of good ethics and character. If so there is hope yet for the state of our oceans when profit can be set aside so that your children and ours can still enjoy a healthy living ocean and planet.
As Doctor Sylvia Earle is so famous for quoting in her conservation talks and accords: “No blue, no green!” Doctor Mercola I wish to thank you very much for your time and consideration in reading this letter. I sincerely hope you will strongly reflect on all that was shared and act in good faith and conscience.
All the best to you sir.
Founder and Director Sharks for Life.
Questioning Krill Harvesting: Why Krill Oil Isn’t an Eco-Friendly or Sustainable Source of Marine Omega-3 Oils