Overfishing and the Supplement Industry

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A Dive into Troubled Waters
Overfishing has been a long-standing concern in the global environmental community. While many associate overfishing with the decline in the availability of fish for human consumption, there is another dimension that is often overlooked: the supplement industry. This article aims to shed light on the links between overfishing and the supplement industry and emphasises the importance of sustainable sourcing.

1. The Context of Overfishing

Overfishing occurs when more fish are caught than the population can replace through natural reproduction. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) highlights that over one-third of the world’s assessed fisheries are currently being pushed beyond their biological limits [1]. Every day entire ecosystems of fish and marine life are wiped out by modern fishing methods. It is estimated that if this continues at the current rate we will see a complete collapse in the world’s fish populations by 2048.

Overfishing is a significant environmental problem with a range of serious consequences for marine ecosystems, economies, and food security. Here are some of the key consequences of overfishing:

Ecological Impacts:

  • Decline in Fish Stocks: Overfishing leads to the depletion of fish populations, which can result in the collapse of fish stocks. When too many fish are caught before they can reproduce and replenish their populations, it can lead to a decline in the overall abundance of fish species.
  • Ecosystem Disruption: Fish play vital roles in marine ecosystems, and their removal can disrupt the balance of these ecosystems. Overfishing of one species can have a cascading effect on other species that depend on it for food or habitat. This can lead to changes in species composition and abundance, affecting the overall health and biodiversity of marine ecosystems.
  • Habitat Destruction: Some fishing methods, such as bottom trawling, can cause significant damage to marine habitats like coral reefs and seafloor ecosystems. Overfishing can increase the pressure on these habitats as fishermen seek to catch remaining fish.
  • Bycatch: Overfishing often results in high levels of bycatch, which refers to unintentional capture of non-target species, including endangered or threatened species. Bycatch can lead to the unnecessary deaths of many marine animals, contributing to biodiversity loss.


  • Economic Impact: Overfishing can have significant economic consequences, especially for communities and industries that rely on fishing for their livelihoods. The depletion of fish stocks can lead to reduced catches and income for fishermen, as well as job losses in the fishing industry.
  • Food Security: Fish is a major source of protein for billions of people around the world, particularly in developing countries. Overfishing can threaten food security by reducing the availability of this important food source. As fish stocks decline, it becomes more difficult for people to access affordable and nutritious seafood.
  • Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing: Overfishing often encourages illegal fishing activities, such as fishing without proper licenses or exceeding catch quotas. IUU fishing exacerbates the problem by further depleting fish populations and undermining conservation efforts.
  • Strain on Management Resources: Overfishing places strain on fisheries management and conservation efforts. Governments and organisations must invest more resources in monitoring and enforcing regulations to combat overfishing.
  • Long-Term Economic Costs: While overfishing may provide short-term economic gains for some, the long-term costs can be substantial. Once fish populations collapse, it can take many years, if not decades, for stocks to recover, during which time the fishing industry can suffer sustained losses.

Addressing these ecological and economic consequences of overfishing requires the implementation of sustainable fisheries management practices and the cooperation of governments, fishing industries, and conservation organisations to ensure the long-term health of marine ecosystems and the economic well-being of communities dependent on fisheries.

2. The Role of the Supplement Industry

Fish Oil and Omega 3s:

Fish oil supplements, known for their Omega-3 fatty acid content, have grown in popularity due to their purported health benefits, including reduced inflammation and better heart health [6]. As demand has surged, so has the need for fish like anchovies, sardines, and mackerel, which are commonly used to produce these supplements [7].

In response to this issue, the supplement industry has looked for alternative sources of omega-3 fatty acids. One promising alternative is krill oil, which is derived from krill, small crustaceans that are abundant in the oceans. However, krill populations are also at risk of overfishing, and harvesting them could lead to damage to the ecosystem.

Another alternative source of omega-3s is algae-based supplements. Algae are a sustainable source of omega-3s that can be grown and harvested without depleting natural resources. Algae-based supplements are also free from contaminants such as mercury, which can be found in some fish oil supplements.

Despite the promising benefits of algae-based supplements, the supplement industry has been slow to adopt this alternative. This may be due to the fact that fish oil is a more traditional source of omega-3s, and there is a lack of awareness about the benefits of algae-based supplements.

To address this issue, it is important for the supplement industry to emphasise the use of eco-friendly practices and promote alternative, environmentally-friendly sources of omega-3s, like algae-based supplements. Consumers, too, can contribute to eco-conscious efforts by selecting sustainably sourced products and reducing waste.

3. The Problematic Connection

The demand for fish oil supplements directly contributes to overfishing. Here's how:

  • Unsustainable Sourcing: A large number of fish oil supplements come from fisheries that don’t practise sustainable methods [8].
  • Bycatch: The process often results in the unintentional catching and killing of non-target species, further compounding the environmental impact [9].
  • Competition with Local Communities: The high demand from the supplement industry can lead to local communities facing shortages in their local fish supplies.

4. Solutions and the Path Forward

Certification and Sustainable Sourcing:

Organisations such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) offer certifications to products sourced from fisheries that adhere to sustainable fishing practices [11]. Although this is still tapping into the marine ecosystem.

Alternative Sources:

Algal oil, derived from algae, is a more eco-friendly source of Omega 3s and can be a potential alternative to fish oil. Our plant based omega 3 DHA drops are ethically sourced from a natural non-GMO algae called Schizochytrium. Our drops are:

  • Cultivated in an eco-friendly controlled setting with a low environmental impact
  • Pose no harm to marine ecosystems
  • Free from contaminants and solvents, extracted using water 
  • Completely traceable origins
  • Delicious! No fishy burps 

Increasing consumer awareness can drive demand for ocean friendly sourced supplements. Brands practising sustainable sourcing often market their efforts, and this can help guide informed purchasing decisions.


The intersection of overfishing and the supplement industry underscores the complex challenges we face in our globalised world. It's imperative to address this issue not only for the sake of marine biodiversity but also for the countless people whose livelihoods and health are intricately tied to our oceans.


Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not replace professional medical advice. Consult with a healthcare practitioner before starting any supplementation regimen.


[1] World Wildlife Fund (WWF). "Overfishing." 

[3] Jackson, J.B.C., et al. 2001. "Historical Overfishing and the Recent Collapse of Coastal Ecosystems". Science.

[4] Teh, L.S.L., and Sumaila, U.R. 2013. "Contribution of marine fisheries to worldwide employment". Fish and Fisheries.

[5] Golden, C.D., et al. 2016. "Fall in fish catch threatens human health".

[6] Harvard T.H. Chan. "Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution.

[7] Greenpeace. 2018. "License to Krill: The little-known world of Antarctic fishing"

[8] Potts, T., et al. 2016. "State of Sustainability Initiatives Review: Standards and the Blue Economy". IISD.

[9] Lewison, R.L., et al. 2014. "Global patterns of marine mammal, seabird, and sea turtle bycatch reveal taxa-specific and cumulative megafauna hotspots". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

[10] Cisneros-Montemayor, A.M., et al. 2016. "Global economic value of shark ecotourism: implications for conservation". Oryx.

[11] Marine Stewardship Council. "Sustainable Fishing." 

[12] Lane, K.E., et al. 2014. "Bioavailability and potential uses of vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids: a review of the literature". Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.

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