Calanus backs Norway’s decision allowing commercial harvesting of omega-3 rich zooplankton

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

C. finmarchicus produces astaxanthin, which gives Calanus Oil a dark red colour. ©Calanus
C. finmarchicus produces astaxanthin, which gives Calanus Oil a dark red colour. ©Calanus
The Norwegian Government is to allow commercial harvesting of Calanus finmarchicus, an ecologically sustainable omega-3 fatty acid source found in huge quantities in the Norwegian Sea.

In an initial move, a precautionary quota has been set at 254 000 tons per year - significantly lower than the potential sustainable yield according to Norwegian biomarine company Calanus.

“This decision provides predictability for further investments and puts us in a good position to supply an increasing number of customers with our health- and nutrition products derived fromCalanus finmarchicus​”, said the company’s CEO Gunnar Rørstad.

“Calanus has collaborated closely with Norwegian Authorities and The Institute of Marine Research in the development of sustainable harvesting, and has provided empirical data crucial for the recommendations by the Authorities.”

“We adhere to the highest environmental standards in all aspects of our operations, and demand that collaborating fishing vessels practice harvesting in a sustainable manner,”​ he added.

Calanus Oil

Calanus’ signature product stems from the copepods species in which an oil is extracted that has proved suitable for use in dietary supplement products, functional food ingredients and marine flavours.

The oil has shown a potent anti-inflammatory action as well as a role in improving insulin sensitivity. Researchers recently began a large clinical trial in children diagnosed with cognitive stress.

“Calanus Oil could potentially become a great supplement to increase the chances of succeeding with lifestyle modification to avoid developing diabetes or other metabolic conditions, particularly in the adult or elderly,” ​remarked Jan Erik Olsen, head of sales and marketing for human Health at Calanus.

In principle, there is a broad range of applications for Calanus Oil such as people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and MGD (Meibomian Gland Dysfunction) when compared to other marine oils.

Calanus Oil was granted Novel Food approval in the EU in December 2017, having already been launched by several companies in Europe

According to Olsen, the focus for Calanus is now to gain regulatory approvals in new markets like Australia, India and Korea.

“In the longer term we aim for Health Claim approval in the metabolic health area,” ​he said. “We have developed a regulatory roadmap and a clinical trial plan, and the next clinical trial will be initiated in Germany in mid-2019.

Waxy ester form

While classic omega-3s come as triglycerides, ethyl esters and phospholipids, Calanus Oil comes in a wax ester form and is currently the only commercially available marine source of wax esters.

Its unique make-up may be the reason for its notable array of health benefits. However, its production comes at a price.

The costs associated with development of the whole value chain, from harvesting of Calanus finmarchicus, through process and product development, to product documentation, regulatory approval and market development are considerable,” ​said Olsen.

“If you look at Calanus Oil as a plain source of omega-3 it is quite expensive. But if you take into account its unique health benefits, story and identity, our experience is that it is just as affordable as many other specialty products such as vitamin K2 and Ubiquinol.

“The fact that the raw material is harvested at lower trophic levels provides the product with a very good sustainability profile. The feedback so far is that consumers greatly appreciate this.

In commenting on consumer perception of its oil in a crowded and competitive market, Olsen said that they “believed consumers were more focused on the benefit than on the mechanism of action”.

“The modern consumer is increasingly attentive to the ethical and environmental aspects of the products they buy.

“The uniqueness makes it natural to target new consumer groups, in particular people at risk of developing metabolic conditions like for instance diabetes 2 as well as the consumer that is focused on natural products.

“Whether or not the quota will be increased in the future is likely to be determined by the demand for products and development of management practices and regulations by Norwegian Authorities.”

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