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Sustainable Fish Oil

Savvy shopping


The list of health benefits associated with omega-3 fatty acids goes on and on, so it’s no wonder the market for omega-3 supplements has boomed in recent years. But what about the health of the planet? How can consumers be sure they’re purchasing omega-3 supplements that do no harm?

Several species of fish are used to make fish oil. Most are small species, including mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and menhaden—the latter a species some worry is being over-fished. On the plus side, most small fish reproduce quickly—and the gear used to catch them does relatively little harm to other marine life and the undersea environment.

Environmental Defense Fund states on its website, “fish oil supplements are an acceptable choice for ecologically concerned consumers.” There are also non-fish options, including omega 3s derived from the crustacean krill and algae.

The key is to be informed. Read the ingredients on supplement bottles to learn the source of the fatty acids, and visit the producers’ websites to find out about their harvesting and production techniques. One simple way to feel good about your purchase is to buy supplements certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. Look for the council’s Certified Sustainable Seafood logo on the label. To earn the logo, seafood and seafood products must meet the organization’s best practice guidelines and must originate from a sustainable fishery.

More useful sources: The Environmental Defense Fund offers useful guides to help you select fish oil supplements that are the most healthful for you and your family, and to select types of fish that are most environmentally sustainable.

The Marine Stewardship Council also has a searchable database listing certified sustainable products, including omega-3 supplements.

 

Shopper's Guide to Fish Oil

In order to set and enforce catch limits, governments and international bodies must measure current populations, understand species’ reproductive rates, and monitor the amount of fish harvested each year. Use these criteria as part of your supplement selection process.

  1. The product’s label lists species and sourcing information.
     
  2. The oil is derived from a well-regulated marine source. Responsible practices include fishing by line or net to reduce impact on the ecosystem, and limiting bycatch.
     
  3. The supplement was processed at an environmentally sensitive facility.

Choose Eco-Friendly Omega 3s

How can you be sure you’re buying healthful omega-3 supplements that are environmentally low impact? Read the ingredients on supplement bottles to learn the source of the fatty acids, and visit the producers’ websites to find out about their harvesting and production techniques.

Consider buying supplements certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. Look for the council’s Certified Sustainable Seafood logo on the label. To earn the logo, seafood and seafood products must meet the organization’s best practice guidelines and must originate from a sustainable fishery.

 

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