How Much Fuel Did it Take to Catch That Fish?

Written by on August 13, 2014 in Fish, Other News
Shrimping off the coast of Florida. Photo credit: NOAA.

Shrimping off the coast of Florida. Photo credit: NOAA.

When we think about sustainable seafood, there are a lot of factors: fresh vs frozen, wild vs farmed, pole-and-line vs purse seine, trawl vs hand-picked, and more. When selecting a seafood at a market or restaurant, the most important questions tend to be about location, catch method, and if it was wild-caught for farmed. But a new report throws a whole new factor into the mix: fuel.

Diesel is the “single largest expense for the fishing industry and its biggest source of greenhouse gases.” With this in mind, Robert Parker, a Ph.D. student at the University of Tasmania, Hobart, and Peter Tyedmers, an ecological economist at Dalhousie University, released a new report ranking various fish based on the amount of fuel used. The ranking doesn’t factor in the amount of fuel used to transport the fish from the docks to the market, but simply the amount used to catch them.

Here are some of the worst offenders:

7. Sardines: 71 liters
6. Skipjack tuna: 434 liters
5. Scallops: 525 liters
4. North American salmon: 886 liters
3. Pacific albacore: 1,612 liters
2. Sole: 2,827 liters
1. Shrimp and lobster: 2,923 liters

The median fuel used in the fisheries is 639 liters per ton, which is equivalent to a little more than two kilograms of carbon dioxide emitted for each kilogram of seafood landed. This is roughly equivalent to the carbon footprint of chicken and farmed salmon, but much less than beef, which emits 10 kg of carbon dioxide per kg of live animal.

Parker and Tyedmers are now working with Monterey Bay Aquarium to see if they can incorporate fuel use into the Seafood Watch guidelines.

To learn more:

Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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  1. How Much Fuel Did it Take to Catch That Fish? | August 14, 2014