Best of 2011 Ingredient Supplier: Aker BioMarine Antarctic

The company’s environmental mission aims to preserve krill’s fragile ecosystem in the Antarctic.

Aker BioMarine Antarctic’s Superba krill oil contains phospholipid EPA and DHA omega-3 essential fatty acids, and the naturally occurring antioxidant astaxanthin. The ingredient is used by manufacturers of some of the best-selling krill oil supplements in North America, the company says, and has recently expanded into China.

Aker’s source of krill oil, Euphasia superba, is the krill species most abundant in the Antarctic and the world’s largest single-species biomass. The shrimp-like crustaceans eat microscopic algae called phytoplankton, which produce a phospholipid form of omega-3 fatty acids. The company contends that many clinical studies have confirmed phospholipids to be a more bioefficient form of omega-3, thus enabling an optimal, small-capsule dose of  300 to 500 ml, without the chance of digestive discomfort or “fishy” burps.

Aker BioMarine owns two krill trawlers and one freighter vessel, which operate in the Antarctic. Environmental groups often raise concerns about how fisheries operate, but Aker BioMarine puts forth a tremendous effort to ensure its processes are eco-friendly and that every aspect of its business is transparent.

“First and foremost, we want to be good stewards of the environment. The Antarctic is a very important ecosystem,” says Eric Anderson, vice president of sales and marketing, Aker BioMarine Antarctic US.

Harvesting krill sustainably and making sure they are commercially viable is a challenge. Traditional trawling involves hauling the catch on deck and emptying it into holding tanks. This doesn’t protect the krill’s highly digestive enzymes from being destroyed before processing. Also, by-catch of other marine life such as seals, fish, and seabirds end up in the net, threatening the Antarctic’s fragile marine ecosystems.

“We invited the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Norway) on to see what we were doing and for advice about what we could do better. This inspired the development of Eco-Harvesting,” Anderson explains.

Aker’s proprietary Eco-Harvesting process has a minimal impact on the environment, the company says. The novel harvesting method keeps nets submerged so krill are transferred live to Aker’s factory vessel for rapid processing, which preserves the krill’s nutrients. This proprietary process also keeps other species out of the nets.

Aker BioMarine is the only krill oil supplier to receive Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. This recognizes eco-friendly harvesting methods and 100% traceability of product, from sea to shelf. “Our customers can use MSC’s eco-label on Superba krill products, ensuring consumers of sustainable sourcing,” says Anderson.

This year, Aker BioMarine cofounded The Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies (ARK), an organization developed to promote research for the sustainable harvest of Antarctic krill. ARK was established to coordinate and cooperate with the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and supports its efforts to manage krill fisheries and study the effect krill harvesting has on other species. Aker recently donated its krill trawler to scientists from the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research for a five-day research mission to collect scientific data that will be used to monitor the health and size of the krill biomass. The research report is given to CCAMLR, and it will be used to set annual krill fishing quotas to preserve the health of the ecosystem.

“We sponsor research and surveys because it’s important to continually monitor the health of the biomass so that it will always be viable,” Anderson explains.

Other notable accomplishments in 2011 include obtaining NDI and GRAS status for Superba krill oil; forming the Aker Science Board of industry experts; and publishing several new human studies, including those showing new health benefits of Superba krill oil.