Fishing boats Peru

Algae-Based Omega-3: A Sustainable Alternative Amidst the Global Fish Oil Crisis

In the ever-evolving health and wellness landscape, omega-3 has been a focal point since the 90’s. Renowned for its diverse health benefits, specifically EPA & DHA, Omega-3 forms the cornerstone of numerous health brands and products. Nonetheless, beneath the surface, there’s trouble brewing. While fish oil has historically been the trusted source, developments in the last two years in Peru raise questions about its (near) future availability and pricing. This forces the food supplement industry to explore alternative solutions. With algae-based omega-3 emerging as the only viable and sustainable alternative.

Peru’s Anchovy Blues: A Wake-Up Call

For years, the fish oil (and meal) animal feed and human supplement industry have heavily relied on Peru’s anchovy catch to meet global omega-3 demand. Anchovies are the single largest fish catch in the world, contributing up to 15%-20% of the global haul. At Lus Health we are not big fans of catching fish. But in all honesty, the Peruvian government has installed various policies to manage the catch in a sustainable way. In 2022, all things seemed pretty normal, with a moderate-to-good catch (4,25 million MT fish landed!). That being said, upon closer inspection something was very much off.

The Elephant in the room

You will have difficulty finding articles on it: in the second 2022 catch, the fat percentage of anchovy was much lower than other years. Normally the yield of fish oil is roughly 3-4%, the long term average, while in the second fishing season this went down to 1%. A staggering 3-4-fold lower, which directly impacts the availability of oil for fish farming and human consumption world-wide. Consequentially, the price of crude fish oil roughly doubled compared to 2021.

What nobody talks about is WHY it was so much lower. Could it be that the warming of our oceans has something to do with it? As explained in a recent article from Science.

This is clearly the elephant in the room and NO ONE in the fish oil industry is willing to talk about it. The science is clear: with raising water temperature, the entire marine food chain could be interrupted. This means that fish can’t find their meal, they will have less fat (reserves) and therefore less reproduction.The entire biodiversity and marine food chain is under threat and no, it will not get better any time soon.

The above graph shows the amount of heat absorbed by the oceans in the last 6 decades. Not a pretty picture and there’s no indication of this going down. The 2023 data are now even record-breaking and are called a fever by Nasa.

(Graph: Courtesy of NOAA graph, based on data (0-700m) from the NCEI Ocean Heat Content product collection)

The Impact of El-Niño

To make things worse, 2023 will be an El Niño year, which historically has meant a much lower anchovy catch. This recurring climate phenomenon, leads to unusual warming of surface waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. These warming waters have shown to disturb weather patterns but also threaten the anchovy (and other species) habitat.

The recent cancellation of the first anchovy fishing season by the Peruvian government is therefore a symptom of the oceanic event that could be expected. Peru rarely cancels anchovy harvests, although it has happened before, like in 2014 also due to the El Niño event that year.

Before this cancellation, Peru’s Ministry of Production had authorized a 1.09-million-metric-ton anchovy quota for the first season of 2023 in north central waters. Already a staggering 60 percent reduction compared to last year. The return of Peruvian anchovy fishers for the second season in October remains uncertain. 

It looks like the lower catch is simply a certainty leading to lower fish oil availability for an industry already in crisis.

Navigating the Stormy Seas across the Omega-3 supplement industry

The impact of this crisis is already felt across the Omega-3 supplement manufacturers. As last years’ fish oil stock levels are decreasing and new supply is becoming scarce, pricing of crude fish oil is further on the rise. Global omega-3 health brands are now faced with enormous issues. Either they can’t get materials, or when they do, the price may be so high consumers may no longer buy.

But as Winston Churchill said “Never waste a good crisis” and this is the time for Omega-3 brand owners to get creative!

Fishing for Alternatives: Algae-Based Omega-3 Oil

The past 5 years algal based EPA & DHA have been a major driver for the growth in the Omega 3 supplement market. This was not out of necessity, but driven by consumer behavior for a more sustainable choice. As is clear from the above, future growth of the Omega-3 market may now arise of necessity as well. Brand owners may have to replace current fish oil (concentrate) soft gels with algal based forms of EPA & DHA. Not over time, but as soon as possible. And the good news: they can!

Algal Omega-3 sources have usually been more expensive than fish oil but the gap is closing. On the algal Omega-3 side, production is becoming more efficient as the industry is growing. With increased fish oil prices, the reasons NOT to switch disappear. The future needs to become sustainable and end consumers want to buy it, so why not take the leap?


Our Offering

As Lus health Ingredients we want to be part of YOUR sustainable solution by offering a range of different Algal based omega 3 solutions. Both our ingredients like Dmax 450® or Algal Omega3to1® are available as Vegan Soft gels (off-the-shelf and customized), Liquid formula’s and droppers. See for yourself what we can do in our brochure and reach out directly to our team via our contact form or email at 

In conclusion

Recent developments in Peru serve as a compelling loud call for change in the omega-3 industry. It’s time to challenge existing conventions and explore innovative solutions. This by embracing the considerable potential of alternative sources like algae-based omega-3 oils. As we navigate these turbulent waters, companies that adapt, diversify, and champion sustainability are in it for the long run. They are not only here to weather the storm, but to flourish in the ever-evolving omega-3 supplementation landscape. The information from this article is not just food for thought but vital in the considerations of your journey towards a resilient and sustainable future. Lus Health delivers Algae-based Omega-3, aiming to play a crucial role in averting a supply crisis and promoting sustainability within the fishing industry.