When did humans decide consuming whale food was a good idea? That it was some sort of multi-vitamin cure-all that will reduce everything from blood pressure to cholesterol; help alleviate PMS or add muscle strength; improve cognitive function and brain health.

Stuff the whales, my tennis elbow is playing up…

Is there anything krill oil supplements can’t do?

Fish oil supplements have been trendy for quite a while now because of the belief omega-3 fatty acids were beneficial particularly in lowering blood pressure – thus benefiting the heart. This despite the fact a recent extensive study found they actually may have no more benefit than a placebo in preventing death or serious cardiovascular disease.

And according to British scientist and nutrition expert Tom Sanders, from Kings College in London, the benefits of fish-oil supplements are over-rated.

“Rather than a passport to good health, fish-oil pills are more like snake oil,” he wrote. “I’ve been researching the health benefits of fish and fish-oil supplements, which contain long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, for more than 30 years.

“What I have found is that, although fish-oil supplements have a role to play for some people, they have been over-hyped and over-sold.”

Now krill oil is growing in popularity, reportedly because it has similar benefits to fish oil but is even more effective.

But is it really, and is fishing the Southern Ocean for tonnes of krill per year for use in supplements – as well as for fishmeal – more destructive than the positives provide?

Now, with a growing market for krill supplements, what is the future for this tiny crustacean which remains the main diet for whales, penguins, seals, squid and other fish?

In 2010, for the first time, part of the Antarctic krill fishery had to be closed because the catch limit was reached. Quotas continue to grow yet scientific studies to determine what effects, if any, fishing is having on the population have not been undertaken and there remains uncertainly as to the future of krill numbers.

Humans really don’t have a good track record in showing restraint, particularly when it comes to hunting. Massive over-fishing is having detrimental effects in many parts of the world and has done for decades. When profit is the over-riding factor, the chances of greed and vested interests muddying the waters grow.

Currently the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society – a group of environmentalists from across the world – are traversing waters in the Antarctic in an attempt to stop Japanese whalers from harpooning more than 1000 whales during their annual hunt.

While the Japanese say they are only hunting their quota for scientific reasons, the most dubious of claims, there is little doubt the whale meat is used for human consumption. But do the Japanese need whale meat in order to survive? Likewise, do any of us really need fish or krill oil to survive?

It’s a noble mission by the Sea Shepherd’s crew. Anyone who has seen how the whales are slaughtered, the length of time it takes for them to die and undoubtedly the suffering that goes with it, would find it hard to disagree.

And all the while the same Antarctic waters which have become a battleground in defence of the whales are being harvested for krill – the staple diet of the very animal in the firing line.

But for how long? What if our estimates of quotas end up being wrong? How can we really know what impact we are having on krill numbers when there is no scientific data available?

It just doesn’t seem to make sense. Protecting the whales is one thing, but when are we going to start protecting their food source?

Comments on this post will close at 6pm AEDT.

Most commented


Show oldest | newest first

    • TimB says:

      05:11am | 03/01/13


      Geeze. I think I’ll just leave the article with this…

      “Greetings, Econauts. I’m Free Waterfall Sr., founder of Penguins Unlimited. [The crowd applauds.] Whoa! No, no! No applause. Every time you clap your hands you kill thousands of spores that’ll some day form a nutritious fungus. Just show your approval with a mould-friendly thumbs up. [The crowd thumbs-ups.] Please hold your thumbs until the end.

    • Markus says:

      10:12am | 03/01/13

      A good way to prevent frostbite: just put your hands between your buttocks. That’s nature’s pocket.

    • Fed Up says:

      05:57am | 03/01/13

      Frankly im more concerned about the cost of living doubling….electricty,water,gas,petrol,etc etc
      Towards the bottom of the list… slightly ahead of seals but only because my wife likes whales.

      “It’s a noble mission by the Sea Shepherd’s crew. Anyone who has seen how the whales are slaughtered, the length of time it takes for them to die and undoubtedly the suffering that goes with it, would find it hard to disagree.”

      As opposed to the violence in the Middle East…..Africa?

      My advice…hit your hand with a hammer and come back to reality.

    • yeah-no says:

      07:51am | 03/01/13

      Why does it have to be ‘as opposed to…’?  Isn’t it possible for there to be more than one concern? I’d say a concern about the cost of living in Australia is among the least justified concerns in the world - unless you’re totally selfish.

    • Nathan says:

      08:16am | 03/01/13

      People are replaceable the environment is not. Besides just cause someone cares about the whales does not mean they don’t care about the middle east. Can’t exactly do anything to change the middle east though. Got to love people deciding what they think is important is the reality, its your reality.

    • PJ says:

      08:52am | 03/01/13

      In Europe Green warriors were attempting to shut down power stations that supplied electricity to children’s hospitals.

    • Ravi says:

      09:27am | 03/01/13

      Defending the defenceless is cool. Whales have no defence against humans. So ... you are dead wrong. smile

    • BS says:

      09:28am | 03/01/13

      In England, conservative politicians were closing down orphanages because they couldn’t pay their power bills.

    • Jen says:

      09:38am | 03/01/13

      @ yeah-no “Why does it have to be ‘as opposed to…”

      Because some people like Fed Up can only cope with thinking of one thing at a time.

    • Fed Up says:

      09:49am | 03/01/13

      @yeah-no says:..of course im selfish…cant see you paying my electricity bills….more than 1 concern?.....heck yeah….which bill should i shelve to pay the other bill….is it the red bin or the yellow bin that has to go out

    • Fed Up says:

      09:58am | 03/01/13

      @Nathan says: of course its my reality…and many others…if i lived in your fairy make believe reality i’d be living on the street.

    • Dr B S Goh, Australian in Asia says:

      07:25am | 03/01/13

      After listening to Paul Ehrlich as a graduate student I have devoted more than 40 years of my life to work on environmental problems and growing food. Currently I am working with a team of people to save the marine sea turtles.

      Many people especially the leaders of the Greens Party of Australia fight shy of the No 1 global problem, the increasing global population. India has 1.2 billion people with 180,000,000 added in the last TEN years. In other words the increase in the annual population of India is almost equal to the total population of Australia. Each FOUR months the increase in global population is greater than the TOTAL population of Australia. Unless people like the Greens Party wake up and tackle the Mother of all Environmental Problems, the increasing global human population, all other environmental problems are storms in tea cups. I have handed out how to vote cards for the Greens Party and so no one should brand me as a hilly billy scientist out to crush the Greens Party.

      The Australian position versus Japan is a classic example on how the politically correct brigades in Australia can pervert science. If one sets out the conservation of whales in the Antarctica as the No 1 priority then there is a very strong scientific argument that we should support the Japanese culling of the abundant Minke whales in Antarctica.

      Most of the scientists I know have given up research on whaling populations as it been corrupted by the politically correct brigades. A dramatic example of this is the case of the resignation of Dr P Hammond, Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission in 1993. The main committee of IWC by then was controlled by the politically correct brigades and it refused to accept the Revised Management Procedure which was supported by 100% of all the scientists in the Scientific Committee.

      To summarize I state that there are strong scientific arguments that we need to cull the Minke whales in order to save the extremely endangered Blue whales. Independent research report at :http://palumbi.stanford.edu/manuscripts/are antarctic minke whales.pdf.

      Since 1880 about 300,000 Blue whales were harvested from an initial population of about 200,000. When the Blue whales were decimated the Minke whales increased substantially and the most optimistic report says by 8-fold. Both Blue and Minke whales feed on the krill and according to the logic of our farmers we kill millions of kangaroos a year because they compete with the sheep.

      Thus the only way humans can do to save the Blue whales is to cull the Minke whales.

      Those who are honest and state that they oppose the cull of Minke whales on ethical rather than on conservation principles I fully respect. But nevertheless I am very saddened for the future of the Blue whales, the largest animals on planet earth. The future of the Blue whales without culling the Minke whales is not looking too good.

    • youdy beaudy says:

      09:58am | 03/01/13

      The best way to protect the enviroment would be to cull the human race, maybe cull about 6 billion of them. The earth is so barren now because of human habitation that the nature will set against us soon and cull and cull away well and this will be for the benefit of the nature and those who are left.

      If we didn’t have such a shite world then most people would be able to maintain reasonable health with a simple diet but as we know the mental and physical health of humans has declined to the point where we have become a cry for help.

      Doctors surgeries are full, hospitals as well. More diseases and illnesses these days than many years ago and this with all their so called medical breakthroughs. What’s going on with us all. Every country in the world are nations of sickos and this will continue.

      As far as the krill oil goes, well, that’s their food but we know that when it comes to human greed nothing is sacred. We won’t be happy until we destroy the lot of it and put in more concrete jungles. The human race is a bloody disgrace and that’s about the size of it really. We all know but continue to follow the path to destruction.

      India 1.3 billion needs culling. China 1.6 billion needs culling. They will eventually be culled by the fact that they won’t be able to feed themselves soon and where do they think that the food will come from. Their water like ours is polluted and food is running out. The other countries will have problems with their own food production soon and will not be able to provide to them. The culling of the human race will be brought about by over breeding. How much food do we think it needs to feed a country like India for one day and China and Korea and the rest of us. Let’s go figure out that one.

      The good times can’t last forever. We all think that it will never run out and that is a important point as regards our delusion that life will perpetually provide for us all. A bit negative i know but we should look to the negative side occasionally and take heed and re adjust our attitudes to this earth otherwise we will have a good chance of losing it all.

      And those Japs killing whales so they can eat them in their fancy restaurants under the guise of scientific experiments. Well, start sinking a few of their ships and they will get the message. We could call it friendly fire. God, that torpedo just jumped out of the tube and no one knows how it happened.! Now it’s the Krill oil. Well howdy doodie, what will it be next, don’t worry, they will think of something to fill the already overfilled pockets. Bugger the whales, seals etc. Hang on, i wonder what seals taste like or penguins, maybe there could be bigger bucks if we kill them out as well. I can just see all those teeth chomping away now and what a sight it is. God, it’s pathetic.!

    • Nobody cares says:

      11:28am | 03/01/13

      youdy beaudy

      Do yourself and the rest of us a favor.

      You go first.

    • Sundress in Sydney says:

      11:30am | 03/01/13

      @youdy beaudy, how strange, I seem to recall reading something like your post quite a while back now.  Almost word perfect.  I am not saying you copied it, but it is absolutely striking.  Deja Vu or whatever it is called I suppose.

    • Ravi says:

      12:29pm | 03/01/13

      @nobody cares

      Corollary of Godwin’s Law.

    • adam says:

      07:29am | 03/01/13


      if we kill all the whales the krill can be ours, all ours!

    • evil overlord says:

      09:33am | 03/01/13

      Ours! Mwahhahahahaha!

    • Sundress In Sydney says:

      07:49am | 03/01/13

      Hmmm, not sure what the point of this is.  It seems to be a sneaky little way to actually write about the whale killings rather than taking their breakfast away.  One out of Ten would be my score for this one, back to school you go.  Mind you, if you need help getting your spin right, there are many political parties than will help.


      07:51am | 03/01/13

      Hi Simon,

      Please you would have to ask that particular question to the Japanese who are consuming tons of whale meat as a delicacy for a very high price and why should they really care?  Because they plan to live forever on this earth, unlike the whales being hunted down very cruelly!  I am not certain about the fish oil supplements/tablets but I am only guessing that they just happen to be a byproduct after the best parts of these beautiful creatures are taken to the best restaurants in the Ginza and Tokyo districts.

      We all get it that after the shark fin soup fiasco why should this be treated any differently? I personally would like to know how those so called scientific research ships/boats end up killing these whales so easily? What gives them that right and privilege?  This sounds so much like the illegal poaching of rhinos in South Africa. These beautiful animals will sadly become extinct in not to distant future.  Then I am only guessing that most Japanese will have to settle for sushi made from cheaper shark fillets.

      And by the way Japanese don’t need to eat whale meat to survive at all, as in most Asian cultures consuming such expensive foods in upmarket restaurants only represents your social status as well as being a symbol of your income levels. I totally believe that having fish can be very food for your health! Hey to all those illegal fishing boats ending up in Antarctica, I wanted to say that “there is plenty more fish in the sea”!  But who knows how much longer though? Kind regards.

    • yeah-no says:

      07:55am | 03/01/13

      I’ve been wondering about the benefits and impacts of fish oil. Perhaps it’s Australia’s equivalent of the Chinese demand for rhino horn powder, which, despite no identifiable benefit, is big enough to threaten species extinction.

    • Null and Void says:

      07:57am | 03/01/13

      And the first two comments display what a terrible attitude humans have to the planet that nurtures us… Good job. Have a great day leaving your rubbish in public places, using combustion engines and too much electricity and stomping on the future.

      Kind regards,

    • morecroft says:

      09:32am | 03/01/13

      With conservatives, it’s only all about me.
      Nothing else matters but me.
      Think climate change denial.

    • Austin 3:16 says:

      07:59am | 03/01/13

      Hey the whales made the evolutionary choice to go back into the ocean, rather than tough it out on land. Bad choice whales.

    • Punters Pal says:

      08:03am | 03/01/13

      Bugger the whales, someone think of the poor krills. You don’t see Greenpeace and Sea Sheperd chasing krill fishing boats, do you? Although small, they have feelings too.

    • Sickemrex says:

      09:18am | 03/01/13

      You’ve seen Happy Feet Two then? Matt Damon and Brad Pitt at their krilly finest.

    • TheRealDave says:

      08:12am | 03/01/13

      Sorry, you lost any sympathy I may have had for your cause as soon as you mentioned Sea Shepherd and Noble in the same postcode…...

    • Jaqui says:

      08:49am | 03/01/13

      Quite frankly the Sea Shepherd bunch are just a grandstanding bunch of incompetent nincompoops.
      Their money would be better spent hiring a private marine security firm to offer personal safety services to each and every whale.
      Face a bunch of unwashed, pot smoking hippies or some hardened mercenaries?
      I know which would stop me.

    • Elphaba says:

      09:00am | 03/01/13

      “It’s a noble mission by the Sea Shepherd’s crew.”

      No it’s not.  It’s eco-terrorism.  They are going to get somebody killed for their ‘noble’ mission and that’s not cool.  I’m all for saving the whales and in a perfect world I would love to see whaling outlawed.  But that’s not going to happen.  The IWC continues to let countries exploit a loophole that they implemented.  Maybe it’s time to start thinking about a sustainable whaling program that allows countries to take a pre-determined amount, with strict sanctions and punishments if they breach it.  Research could be done on more humane ways of killing the whales.

      The situation we’ve got at the moment where the IWC stick their fingers in their ears and hum, while the Sea Shepherd endangers the lives of those fishermen, is appalling.  More measured, respectful talk is needed, not the shrill squealing of environmental harpies.

    • Tim says:

      09:26am | 03/01/13

      Exactly right,
      If we weren’t such precious children, we would allow the IWC to set a sustainable commercial whaling quota for species which are clearly not anywhere near being endangered.

      I hate the people who complain about this issue but don’t see their own hypocrisy when they don’t complain the same way about people eating other species of animal.

    • kindess is weakness says:

      09:38am | 03/01/13

      Kill the whales!
      It’s what Jesus would want.

    • Elphaba says:

      09:53am | 03/01/13

      Thanks Tim.

      I certainly don’t love the idea of whaling, but I am practical enough to realise that sometimes, we need to pick the lesser of two evils.  Right now, the IWC has a LOT to answer for on how they’re handling this situation.

    • Michael says:

      10:16am | 03/01/13

      Tim, do you think people might make an appearance on menus at some stage in the future, as they have in the past?
      If we are going to eat animals why leave any off the menu?

      Harvest the organs of the dead for the living, feed the remains to livestock….maybe for fish farming or pigs, they eat meat, cycle of life sort of thing.

      The other other white meat?

    • Tim says:

      11:06am | 03/01/13

      I would say the line is drawn at eating humans for sociological factors related to the functioning of our society.
      In our laws, we place specific rights on human life based on the “uniqueness” of each individual human being. The idea is that humans are a special species on this planet.
      I don’t think it can be argued that there aren’t extremely good reasons against cannibalism in our society that don’t apply to eating other animals.

      As for the rest, our remains are returned to the environment one way our another upon our death. The cycle of life continues.

      The problem I actually have with killing whales are wholly related to the way they are killed. It’s obviously painful and cruel using current methods. If someone can find a more humane way of harvesting them, then I’d support the eating of whale more.

    • Michael says:

      11:43am | 03/01/13

      Human law, the Universal law…

    • Tim says:

      12:47pm | 03/01/13

      I’ve got no problem admitting that it’s just human law. I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to call it universal law or contend that it is anything more than our own hubris.
      But it works and enables us to have a productive society and for that reason, I support it.

    • Bungalow says:

      09:05am | 03/01/13

      Well I’ve tried the fish oil and it doesn’t do a damned thing for me, but I’ll you what does and I wouldn’t be without it.
      EMU oil. Yes emu oil capsules and if you have an old dog that looks like it needs a helping hand with its mobility, feed it a couple of these emu oil capsules every day and see the difference. So, leave the bloody whales alone and get into the the emu oil.

    • Dr B S Goh, Australian in Asia says:

      09:19am | 03/01/13

      Simon. There is no need to start a panic on the conservation of the krill populations in Anatarctica. As a group of species it has the largest biomass on planet Earth at about 500 million tons, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antarctic_krill.

      Each mature female krill lays about 10,000 eggs and may do so once or twice a year. So it is a very good example of what biologists call a r selected species.

      You should create concerns on the increasing global human population. At an average weight of 60 kgs the 6 billion humans now have a total of 360 million tons. This is the Mother of all Environmental Problems.

    • Daylight Robbery says:

      12:04pm | 03/01/13

      So where is the rampaging genetic modification of plants to include the tumor shrinking omega 3 property?

      Holistic management seems to be a concern with commercial fisheries and speculation rife on the impact of exploited whitebait fisheries etc on bio-masses of fin-fishes.

      There are so many commercial fisheries still not measured/managed in Australia that pose much greater threat. Nets in environmentally stressed estuaries of nursery fish to use as commercial crab bait. 

      Are the Japanese whaling to keep fishery exploit history for access to what they don’t consider to be Australian territory?

      And what of the traditional hunting of Dungong in Australia.  Is this any different to the Japanese hunting prolific Minkey whale?

      Yes, it does read a little like a Sea Shepherd branding exercise.

    • Bear of the bear patrol says:

      01:42pm | 03/01/13

      You fat cats didn’t finish your plankton!

    • Gordon says:

      02:48pm | 03/01/13

      krill oil turned me into a newt

    • expat says:

      03:49pm | 03/01/13

      The Japanese want to whale, let the Japanese whale, it is international waters.

      Greenpeace and most environs remind me of children who continue to do something just to annoy people for the sake of it.

    • neil says:

      04:54pm | 03/01/13

      A word of warning if you choose to take krill oil while you are taking blood pressure medications.

      I recently purchased a krill oil product, the only warnings on the bottle were for pregnant women and alergies to shellfish, however krill oil contains a blood thining agent that will lower your blood pressure. After I had been taking it for about a week I developed arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat, where my heart would stop beating for 2-3 seconds then start againg, very disconcerting. By pure coincidence after work that day while chatting to a college he mentioned that he had purchased some but had been told not to use it while using blood pressure medication. That evening I measured my blood presure and it was 85/55. I stopped taking the oil and it returned to 120/80 in two days.

      If you are thinking of trying it, talk to your Doctor first.


Facebook Recommendations

Read all about it

Punch live

Up to the minute Twitter chatter

Recent posts

The latest and greatest

The Punch is moving house

The Punch is moving house

Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…

Nosebleed Section

choice ringside rantings

From: Hasbro, go straight to gaol, do not pass go

Tim says:

They should update other things in the game too. Instead of a get out of jail free card, they should have a Dodgy Lawyer card that not only gets you out of jail straight away but also gives you a fat payout in compensation for daring to arrest you in the first place. Instead of getting a hotel when you… [read more]

From: A guide to summer festivals especially if you wouldn’t go

Kel says:

If you want a festival for older people or for families alike, get amongst the respectable punters at Bluesfest. A truly amazing festival experience to be had of ALL AGES. And all the young "festivalgoers" usually write themselves off on the first night, only to never hear from them again the rest of… [read more]

Gentle jabs to the ribs

Superman needs saving

Superman needs saving

Can somebody please save Superman? He seems to be going through a bit of a crisis. Eighteen months ago,… Read more



Read all about it

Sign up to the free News.com.au newsletter