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VICTORY! Holland & Barrett ditch krill oil to protect the Antarctic

Posted by Louisa Casson - 23rd March 2018


It’s not been a great week for the krill industry. This week, Greenpeace have taken action on land and at sea to call out the massive fishing vessels that are steaming into sensitive Antarctic waters and targeting the bedrock of the Antarctic food chain: tiny shrimp-like krill. And we’re winning.

Hang on, what’s krill?

Krill may be small, but as the main food source of whales, seals and penguins it’s incredibly important for the entire Antarctic ecosystem.The five species of baleen whale who travel thousands of miles to the Antarctic to feed all rely almost exclusively on plentiful supplies of krill.

So with a changing climate already placing penguin and whale populations under pressure, an expanding krill industry is bad news for the health of the Antarctic Ocean. Yet we’ve revealed that krill-fishing companies are expanding operations in the fragile Antarctic Ocean, putting an entire food web at risk. A new Greenpeace International investigation tracked these vessels fishing around the Antarctic Peninsula, in areas that governments are formally considering for protection, as the essential foraging grounds of whales and penguin colonies. What’s more, these vessels are often involved in fishing practices that could damage wildlife and protected ocean areas.

We needed to take action.

The krill industry is betting on rapid expansion in these sensitive Antarctic waters, fuelled by lucrative sales of krill oil as an omega-3 health supplement. The UK is the fourth largest krill oil market globally, so our high street retailers are helping to fuel and justify the krill fishing industry’s expansion plans. But we know there is strong public support to protect the Antarctic – over 275,000 of you have signed a petition to the UK Government calling for an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary.

Krill fishing vessels in the vicinity of Trinity Island.

So we took the message straight to one of the leading stockists of krill products that have been fished from these areas earmarked for protection: health food chain Holland & Barrett.

And we won!

After just a few days of hungry penguin stickers appearing on Holland & Barrett’s krill products and over 45,000 emails to their CEO in 24 hours, Holland & Barrett announced it had decided to remove all krill-based products from sale in the coming weeks in line with the recent Greenpeace report that calls for limiting fishing for krill in areas proposed for new Ocean Sanctuaries”. 

We’ve confirmed with the company that they have delisted krill oil globally, and this position will be incorporated into Holland & Barrett’s Buying Ethos. This means no Holland & Barrett store around the world will re-order these products from now, whether in the UK, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, China, India, Belgium, Sweden or beyond. This decision sends a strong signal to the krill companies, especially in regions where the industry is targeting rapid growth, that public demand lies with Antarctic protection, not exploitation.

This is a major boost for proposals to protect the Antarctic this year – and it’s thanks to so many of you who took action. Other retailers still selling krill products fished in Antarctic waters earmarked for protection will find it hard to ignore this swell of public demand, and need to take action now. No retailer should be stocking products that put the Antarctic Ocean at risk.

Action from sea to shelf

The Antarctic Ocean may be many thousands of miles away, but when we work together, we have the power to protect it. At the same time that Holland & Barrett decided to do the right thing, Greenpeace activists braved freezing temperatures to confront a krill fishing vessel in Antarctic waters in a peaceful protest to protect this critical food source for penguins and whales. They occupied a survival pod which they attached to the anchor chain of the ship and unfurled a banner reading Protect The Antarctic.

Greenpeace activists in peaceful protest, displaying a banner saying “Protect the Antarctic” on the Ukrainian krill trawler 'More Sodruzhestva' in the Bransfield Strait near Greenwich Island, Antarctic. Greenpeace is calling for the krill industry to commit to stop fishing in any area being considered by governments for ocean sanctuary status, and to back proposals for marine protection in the Antarctic.

The krill industry has got too comfortable operating out of sight. It can no longer get away with putting the Antarctic at risk. The Antarctic Ocean is all of ours to protect, not companies’ to exploit – share the news of this victory for people power!

About Louisa Casson

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I'm a campaigner in Greenpeace UK's oceans team, leading our campaign to create the world's largest protected area in the Antarctic ocean.