Hi & Fi Asia-China 2024

Fish oil supply to recover as 2024’s first fishing season ends on a high note – GOED

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Fish oil yield is set to recover as the first Peruvian anchovy fishing season ends on a high note this year. ©Getty Images
Fish oil yield is set to recover as the first Peruvian anchovy fishing season ends on a high note this year. ©Getty Images

Related tags omega-3 Fish oil Epa Dha GOED

The first Peruvian fishing season this year had ended on a high note, with oil yield expected to hit at least 75k tons, said industry body GOED.

The Peruvian anchovy fishery, the largest that sells to the omega-3 dietary supplement industry, began its first fishing season for this year on April 16​ amid a global fish oil shortage.

Last year, the unusual warming of surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean due to El Niño had slashed fishing quotas. 

The anchovy fishing quota ​for the first fishing season this year was 2.475 million metric tons tons. This was set at 1.09 million metric tons and 1.68 million metric tons for the first and second fishing seasons last year. The first season, however, was eventually cancelled due to El Niño.

Low fish oil supply had jacked up prices – up from $5.83 to $11.12 per kg between January/February and November/December last year.

The situation is set to improve, as oil yields from the first fishing season this year is expected to hit 75k to 85k tonnes, said GOED (The Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s). Peru typically produces about 150k to 200k tons of fish oil per year.

“The first season of the year has just finished, and it was very good. The quota was very high and the harvest was almost the entire quota. We are still waiting for the final numbers, but the yield was almost the entire quota.

“This means that there will be 75,000 to 85,000 tonnes of fish oil available from this season, which is very good news for the industry,” ​Ellen Schutt, managing director, GOED, told NutraIngredients-Asia ​at Hi & Fi Asia-China held in Shanghai between June 19 and 21.

The second fishing season for this year is set to take place between end October to December, she said, adding that prices of fish oil had “definitely dropped”.

“The prices were at an all-time high last year, and they have definitely dropped this year.

“I think people are still watching to see what's going to happen with the second season of the year, which will be in the November, December time frame. But in general, it has been good news for the industry,” ​she said.

Watch the following video as she tells us more, including other industry challenges, such as Europe's upcoming regulations regarding mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons (MOAH) and how it could affect the industry. 

Trends in omega-3 use in dietary supplements

There is growing use of omega-3 in dietary supplements.

As of 2022, the bulk of omega-3 were used in dietary supplements at 70,770 metric tons – up 4.4 per cent from 2021, data from GOED showed.  

This is followed by pet foods, which saw an increase of 1.5 per cent in volume to 34,454 metric tons. Infant formula and food and beverage were in the third and fourth place, with 6,162 metric tons and 5,840 metric tons of omega-3 going into these two areas respectively. 

The US is leading the application of EPA and DHA in dietary supplements, with 20,813 metric tons used for this purpose in the country.

This is followed by Europe and China at 14,210 metric tons and 8,968 metric tons respectively. 

The use of EPA and DHA in dietary supplements was fastest growing in South America, Mexico, and China, where volume increased by 9.6 per cent, 8.6 per cent, and 8.1 per cent respectively in 2022.

Algae fast-growing as an alternative  

The crunch in fish oil supply has piqued the industry's interest in alternative omega-3 sources, one of which is algae oil.

In fact, before last year’s supply shortage, there were already interest in algae oil coming from the plant-based and vegetarian community.

Between 2021 and 2022, the volume of algae-derived omega-3 went up by 5.9 per cent to 5,327 metric tons.

Krill, on the other hand, grew 3.3 per cent to 829 metric tons.

Common refined and concentrates were still the main source of omega-3, providing 40,578 metric tons and 25,374 metric tons respectively in 2022. The volume of these two omega-3 sources also grew by 4.3 per cent and 5.7 per cent respectively in 2022.

Asked how the industry is preparing itself for a similar situation seen last year, Schutt said that education was required to help the industry know that there were high-quality alternative sources of omega-3.

We've talked a lot about that (backup plans) because the situation last year in Peru was a very big deal, and the question is, is it a result of climate change, or is it just El Niño, or is it just a normal cycle? And the answer is we don't really know.

There are certainly other oils that have EPA and DHA, not necessarily the same amount as the Peruvian anchovy fisheries, but there's other high-quality sources of oil that could play a role in the future," ​she said. 

Aside from awareness, companies would also need to exercise flexibility in view of the options that are available.

It's a matter of companies and brands understanding that they have other options and being flexible in terms of what's available, so I think there's some education needed, but we feel optimistic that there are options out there if something like this does happen again."

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