The Challenge of Sustainable Seafood


The ocean has long been a vital source of food for the human population. However, recent complications with harvesting processes and marine pollution has made the seafood trade more detrimental than it was in the past. Although essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids come from seafood sources, it’s hard to avoid the risks and ecological impacts. In our modern era, eco-conscious consumers must ask themselves exactly where their seafood comes from and how much of it is safe.

Why is Sustainable Marine Management So Hard?

The fishing industry has a lot of moving parts. For one thing, you have the challenge of international waters. While regulations on fishing may differ across borders, the ocean doesn’t acknowledge the borders that land-bound species do.

Many meat processing businesses only deal with one or two species, but fishing is a bit of a catchall. There are many different species, all in different layers of the food chain. Each population has a huge impact on the next, and threatening one species can have wide-ranging repercussions for endangered animals up the chain.

The ocean teems with trillions of fish. However, humans remove 170 billion pounds of seafood from the ocean each year. Naturalists note that while the human population continues to rise, many populations of fish are only a fraction of what they used to be. Fishing methods that scoop huge numbers of fish from the ocean at a time (certainly the most efficient and cost-effective technique) can also create the problem of overfishing, wherein the hits to a fish population outweigh the ability of the remaining population to reproduce.

More sustainable methods of seafood harvesting include only catching small percentages of each population, preserving their ability to reproduce. Using seasonal fishing rotations in order to preserve the life cycle of fish can also help. However, some experts say that the only way to be sure that we’re not hurting the marine food chain is abstaining from seafood until we understand better how the ocean’s ecosystem works.

Pollutants and Toxins

Studies have found that populations of fish around the world are affected by agricultural and industrial toxins. Although they levels have been dropping in the last few decades, these toxins include DDT, flame retardants, and coolants. However, toxins in fish also extend to heavy metals like lead and mercury, which bind to proteins and are subsequently found throughout the entire tissue of the fish, not contained in the stomach as pollutants like microplastics are.

Land-based fish hatcheries and farms avoid ocean pollutants. However, they come with their own set of contamination. Limited space sometimes means mismanaged waste, and higher threat of disease. Often, these risks are moderated with the use of chemical detergents that can affect the fish in other ways, and impact other close species in the area.

The Alternative of Krill Oil

One of the reasons that we love providing krill oil to our customers is because krill oil is a sustainable alternative to fish oil and traditional seafood options. Humans’ harvesting of krill only accounts for 1/4000th of the natural population. And since krill is so vital to the entire marine food chain, it’s been closely regulated for years, giving us a good baseline understanding of the population trends and sources. You can read more about our pure Antarctic krill oil here.