Fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions of world fisheries


Food production is responsible for a quarter of anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally. Marine fisheries are typically excluded from global assessments of GHGs or are generalized based on a limited number of case studies. Here we quantify fuel inputs and GHG emissions for the global fishing fleet from 1990–2011 and compare emissions from fisheries to those from agriculture and livestock production. We estimate that fisheries consumed 40 billion litres of fuel in 2011 and generated a total of 179 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent GHGs (4% of global food production). Emissions from the global fishing industry grew by 28% between 1990 and 2011, with little coinciding increase in production (average emissions per tonne landed grew by 21%). Growth in emissions was driven primarily by increased harvests from fuel-intensive crustacean fisheries. The environmental benefit of low-carbon fisheries could be further realized if a greater proportion of landings were directed to human consumption rather than industrial uses.

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Fig. 1: Production and GHG emissions by fisheries for each country.
Fig. 2: Global marine fishery landings and GHG emissions for 1990–2011 categorized by species groups.
Fig. 3: Carbon footprint of fishery-derived products for human consumption in 2011 compared to other sources of animal protein.


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Research funding was provided by the Australian Seafood Cooperative Research Centre (Project 100596). R.W.R.P. acknowledges support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (PDF-487958-2016). R.A.W. acknowledges support from the Australian Research Council (Discovery project DP140101377).

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R.W.R.P. co-manages FEUD, conducted analyses and wrote the manuscript. J.L.B., C.G. and B.S.G. assisted with projected development and manuscript preparation. K.H. assisted with data analysis and manuscript preparation. P.H.T. developed and co-manages FEUD and assisted with manuscript preparation. R.A.W. provided global fishery landing data and assisted with data analysis and manuscript preparation.

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Correspondence to Robert W. R. Parker.

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Parker, R.W.R., Blanchard, J.L., Gardner, C. et al. Fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions of world fisheries. Nature Clim Change 8, 333–337 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-018-0117-x

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