The report from NGO Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) rated 24 ‘reduction fisheries’ – stocks turned into fishmeal and fish oil – according to quality of management and status of the target stock using its public database of fishery information, FishSource.
The fisheries were given A, B1, B2 or C ratings.
Norwegian firm Aker BioMarine's Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified krill fishery was the only one to be graded A, meaning the stocks were in ‘very good condition’.
Managed by regulator the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), Aker BioMarine's fishery represented just 2.3% of the total catch volume analysed in the report.
Meanwhile 11 stocks were rated B1 (‘reasonably managed fisheries with stock in good condition’) or B2 ('reasonably managed fisheries’), representing 60.1% of catches collectively.
Finally 12 of the stocks were rated C, representing 37.5% of the assessed stocks.
“In several cases, the stock status of these C-rated fisheries is good but there is a serious management issue (e.g., overfishing, TAC [total allowable catches] above advised levels) that is causing the fishery to score badly. In such cases, if the specific management issue(s) is/are tackled (and the other conditions remain), the condition of the fisheries would improve,” the SFP wrote in the report.
However it said in some cases, like the anchoveta Chilean regions V-X fishery, the fisheries were in “very bad shape in terms of both the management strategy and stock status, where considerable improvements are needed”.
Commenting on its A-grade status, Aker BioMarine’s sustainability director, Marte Haabeth Grindaker, said: "Since the marine omega-3s used in dietary supplements most frequently come from 'reduction fisheries' (i.e., those used to make fish/krill meal and oil), they require close attention because the species used represent a vital part of the food chain.
"For this and many other reasons, an omega-3 company simply cannot do business today without taking the appropriate environmental steps to ensure these species are well protected."
Most of the catch supply looked at came from South American fisheries (63%), followed by European (16%) and northwest African (10%) fisheries.
Reduction fisheries for the fishmeal and fish oil industry in the Atlantic and east Pacific oceans are largely dominated by low trophic level species like krill, anchovy, herring, pilchard, sprat, sardine, sand-eel and menhaden.
The SFP said these species tended to be resilient to fishing pressures if catches were well managed because of factors like early maturity and short life span, however over-fishing was possible without effective controls.
“These stocks are also extremely important to wider ocean ecology because they are a critical food source for many species of fish, marine mammals, and seabirds and act as the foundation for many food webs.
“It is of the utmost importance that these stocks are well managed with adequate safety margins and a healthy respect for the wider ecological implications of commercial exploitation.”