Aquaculture for all

Beware the shark oil salesmen


An Australian firm that extracts squalene fish oil from deepwater sharks for the human health industry has warned that some of its competitors are making misleading claims about the source and sustainability of their products.

Melbourne-based Ocean Oils processes and refines squalene oils, which are only contained in the livers of a few deepwater shark species. There is strong consumer demand for the product because of the health benefits it provides.

Ocean Oils Managing Director Richard Saul explained to Australia’s Southeast Trawl Fishing Industry Association (SETFIA) that he joined the group because he wanted to assure himself and his customers that his raw material was responsibly sourced and the only way to do this was to understand the management and science in place and meet the fishermen catching his raw material. Richard explained to SETFIA that over 25 years he had built a strong export business based on high quality manufacturing and ethical sourcing of raw material. However, an unforeseen development has since made his product almost impossible to sell.

According to SETFIA, the Made in Australia brand, which is provided by Australian Made Campaign in return for a fee, began to appear on many brands of fish oil. Through his own investigations Richard found that the logo had been granted to 63 brands of squalene oil and 11 brands of krill oil even though they did not use fish caught or grown in Australia.

An Australian producer of squalene oils is concerned about how sustainably sourced the ingredients are in some brands.

In response SETFIA called a leading squalene oil brand which has a derivative of “Australia” in their name and use the Made in Australia logo. Their website states, “Australia’s … clear waters… are isolated from environmental threats and pollutants that exist in other parts of the world”.

A spokesman admitted to SETFIA that their oil is imported and were not totally sure of where it came from. SETFIA’s investigations have revealed that it is likely from south-east Asia via a New Zealand sales agent. When asked about the morality of selling imported oil as Made in Australia their spokesman agreed that, “it isn’t the right thing to do and could be conceived as being misleading”, adding, “if I don’t do this I can’t compete”.

Under new Federal Country of Origin Labeling Laws businesses will have until 30 June 2018 to comply with new requirements in which only food products grown, produced or made in Australia can carry a country of origin mark. Products must also carry a bar chart showing the % of Australian content and a text statement about the % of Australian ingredients.

In the meantime SETFIA has urged Made in Australia "to give businesses like Richard’s a fair suck of the saveloy by withdrawing the advantages of their branding from foreign oils sooner rather than later."

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