We've Got Bad News If You're Eating Shrimp And Lobster To Shrink Your Carbon Footprint

The amount of fuel spent setting and checking lobster pots is surprisingly high. Ethan Daniels/Shutterstock

Josh Davis 04 Apr 2018, 17:47

Bad news if you think that switching to shrimp and lobster will ease your carbon footprint: Their fisheries are the most carbon intensive in the sea. A new study has found that in some cases catching crustaceans can produce as much CO2 per kilogram of edible protein as beef and lamb, and that perhaps you should plump for pelagic fish like anchovies and herring instead. 

Normally, it is recommended that environmentally conscious consumers give up on carbon-intensive meats such as beef and pork and go for foods that have a lighter footprint, such as wild fish and other seafood. 

But weirdly, there has never been a full assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions from fisheries, with estimates to date based on generalized information from a smattering of case studies. Now, a new study published in Nature Climate Change has looked at every single fishery in the world and assessed their carbon output. While most of them are pretty good, there are some you might want to think twice about.

To put things into perspective, it is thought that around 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions globally can be traced back to the food industry. This new research focused largely on how much fuel is used by fishing boats in each fishery, as this is by far the main source of carbon in the industry. It found that in 2011, fisheries worldwide used 40 billion liters of fuel, generating a total of 179 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

This might sound like a heck of a lot but – and here’s the good news – that is only around 4 percent of the total emissions from global food production. However, these emissions are not spread evenly within the fishing industry.

Herring is actually one of the most carbon efficient meats you can eat. Alessandro De Maddalena/Shutterstock
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