Sustainability labels like Marine Stewardship Council certification are increasing for fish, krill oil supplements as omega-3 market grows, MSC says

According to the Marine Stewardship Council, the number of fish oil supplements in the U.S. featuring the MSC-certified label grew 44% in the past five years.

As more consumers prioritize purchasing environmentally friendly fish and krill oil dietary supplements, leading sustainability certifier the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC; Washington, DC) reports that usage of its MSC-certified label is growing. In June, MSC said that the number of fish oil supplements in the U.S. featuring the MSC-certified label indicating sustainability grew 44% in the past five years.

Five years ago, only 132 fish oil supplements carried the MSC label; today, 191 fish oil supplements feature the MSC label. This led to more than 8.5 million bottles and packets of MSC-certified fish oil supplements sold in the U.S. in the past year, MSC reported in June. In order for a product to feature the MSC label, a fishery must be certified to MSC’s sustainable-fishing standards.

Globally, use of the MSC label for fish oil products is also growing. MSC reports that back in 2008, only four MSC-labeled fish oil supplements were available worldwide; in 2021, there were more than 500 MSC-labeled fish oil supplements available globally. More than 20.5 million bottles or packets of MSC-certified fish oils are now being purchased globally—a number MSC says is 75% more, or nearly 12 million bottles more, compared to just three years ago.

Krill is still the most popular marine species to carry the MSC-certified supplements label, MSC notes. Products with the MSC label span everything from pet supplements to the first prenatal MSC-certified supplement from the Dr. Mercola’s brand.

Companies are also increasing sustainable practices such as using the whole fish, or byproducts of a species caught for human consumption, to make nutritional products in order to reduce waste. These practices include using trimmings such as liver, heads, and fins of pollock, cod, or salmon, and even cod skin to make collagen supplements.

Sustainability practices and certification will continue to grow in importance as the omega-3 supplements market expands. In the U.S. alone in 2021, the EPA and DHA omega-3 supplement market grew to $1.35 billion in value, says MSC, reporting figures from the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s’ (GOED; Salt Lake City, UT) 2022 Global EPA+DHA Omega-3 Finished Products Report. In the U.S., GOED predicts that the omega-3 supplements market will grow by 3.8% by 2023.

“Small pelagic fisheries, those that are often used to produce fish oils, play a critical role in the marine ecosystem,” said Erika Feller, regional director, Americas, Marine Stewardship Council, in a press release. “Small pelagic species, such as krill, sardine, and menhaden, are at the base of marine food chains because they are also food for many other marine species. Overfishing these species could have a significant negative impact on delicate marine ecosystems, which is why it’s so important for consumers to choose sustainable fish oil products produced from MSC-certified fisheries. MSC-certified fisheries take an extremely cautious approach in setting catch limits for low trophic species—or species low in the marine food chain that play a key role in the ecosystem, such as small pelagics—harvesting fish at a more conservative rate compared to other species. This ensures stocks remain abundant and helps to protect seafood supplies and the ocean ecosystem.”