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Boots: Give risky krill oil the boot

Posted by Louisa Casson - 29th March 2018

Next time you walk past a Boots store, take a closer look. You might be surprised to find that products on sale in this high street chain are putting the Antarctic at risk.

After Holland & Barrett bowed to public pressure and agreed to delist krill oil products last week, Boots is now one of the last remaining UK stockists of omega-3 supplements made from Antarctic krill.

Krill oil is made of, well, you guessed it: krill. But more importantly, krill oil is mostly made up of Antarctic krill. These tiny, shrimp-like animal are the bedrock of the Antarctic food chain, providing vital sustenance for whales and penguins.

Greenpeace take peaceful action against the krill industry in the AntarcticA recent Greenpeace report has revealed that krill is being sucked out of the ocean by huge industrial fishing vessels. This fishing is happening right next to the feeding grounds of whales and penguins. With a changing climate already placing Antarctic wildlife under pressure, the last thing these animals need is industrial-sized boats moving in and directly competing for their food.

The UK is a growing but influential market for krill oil products. And as the fourth largest krill oil market globally, UK stockists like Boots are fuelling an expanding Antarctic krill fishing industry and justifying the exploitation of sensitive Antarctic waters that need protection.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. After 45,000 Greenpeace supporters called out Holland & Barrett’s sales of krill oil, the health food retailer decided to delist krill oil from their stores globally. This means no Holland & Barrett store anywhere in the world will buy any more krill products from suppliers. So along with the UK high street stores, this win covers shops in Hong Kong, the Netherlands, China, India, Belgium, Sweden and beyond.

Holland & Barrett’s decision created a domino effect with other UK retailers. In the past week, Superdrug, Morrisons and Nature’s Best have all decided to drop krill oil products that were putting the Antarctic at risk. 

Boots is now one of the last remaining high street brands stocking krill oil; and the last UK retailer selling an own brand krill product. If Boots uses its buying power to persuade its supplier to stop fishing in sensitive areas earmarked for protection, this can have a significant influence over the entire krill fleet operating in the Antarctic.

Protecting the environment is a core part of Boots’ stated mission to be the UK’s most socially responsible retailer in the health and beauty market. But can customers continue to trust Boots as a responsible retailer while it profits from a fishing industry that is threatening the health of the Antarctic?

Boots have defended their sales of krill oil because, ‘it only contains krill oil that comes from MSC and Friends of the Sea certified sustainable fisheries’. Yet with vast uncertainties over krill numbers and how climate change will affect krill populations in the Antarctic, how can it be possible to call krill fishing sustainable?

If they really are a brand built on a trust, Boots needs to stop sourcing krill from vessels fishing in areas under consideration for protection and undertaking risky activities in sensitive waters – or risk undermining its own reputation for responsible stewardship.

We know the company already sells alternative vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids – that pose no risk to whales or penguins. Boots should use its buying power to protect Antarctic wildlife, not allow the plundering of this last wilderness for profit. It’s time for all responsible retailers to give risky krill products the boot.

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.