New study finds Scottish pelagic fisheries have low carbon footprint

New study finds Scottish pelagic fisheries have low carbon footprint

A new study has found that Scottish caught pelagic fish such as herring and mackerel have a low carbon footprint compared to other types of food production, making them a good food choice for the environmentally conscious consumer.

This study, just published, “The environmental impacts of pelagic fish caught by Scottish vessels” was carried out by Frances Sandison as part of her PhD studies and funded by the Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group, Shetland Islands Council, University of Aberdeen, University of the Highlands and Islands, and Shetland Fish Producers’ Organisation.

Her study found that Scottish-caught pelagic fish have a lower carbon footprint and environmental impact when compared to other seafood products. This includes UK farmed salmon, which is 7.2 times higher, and Norwegian caught cod and haddock, which are 3.5 and 3.9 times higher than Scottish caught pelagic fish.

This extended her earlier finding at the NAFC Marine Centre (which is part of the University of the Highlands and Islands) which revealed that the carbon footprint of the Shetland mackerel trawl fishery was much lower compared to land-based meat production, including chicken, beef and pork. Seafood production in general has a lower carbon footprint than land-based meat production.

This confirms that sustainably managed Scottish pelagic fish represents a climate smart food source that helps deliver targets for achieving net zero carbon.

Frances Sandison says: “In Scotland we have access to a fantastically low impact, highly nutritious, locally caught source of protein. Compared to other meat sources the choice is clear for the environmentally conscious consumer – we should be eating more local pelagic fish.”

Her environmental impact study also found that fuel consumption in the fishing phase is the main contributor of carbon emissions. Enhancing fuel efficiency through innovations in vessel design and fishing practices, and a transition to alternative fuel sources are part of the Scottish pelagic sector’s efforts to minimise emissions.

Ian Gatt, chairman of the Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group, said: “We congratulate Frances on the successful completion of her research. For the Scottish pelagic sector there is a lot at stake with climate change, given that mackerel and herring have an established global trade that helps ensure food security as an affordable and nutritious protein in many parts of the world. Scottish fishermen have invested heavily in modern vessels and fish handling systems, and processors in the latest equipment, to ensure a high quality, low carbon footprint product that can be delivered to market in the most efficient manner.

“As such, Scottish mackerel and herring production really do tick all the right boxes when it comes to sustainability, nutrition, and low carbon footprint.”

The full study can be read here: