BlueTrace was asked recently about greenhouse gas emissions and seafood. Our initial reaction was that there wasn't much of a story, but we did some research — and it turns out that the industry can have a positive impact on C02 emissions. Here's the overview:
- Reduced Emissions. Both wild-caught seafood and aquaculture produce less CO2 than most other traditional sources of protein (Oceana 2021, Nature 2021). For every gram of protein we consume from wild-caught fisheries instead of beef, we are reducing the CO2 impact by 82% (89% for aquaculture). Comparing to beef yields the most dramatic difference, but even moving from chicken to aquaculture would reduce CO2 per gram by almost 50%. Aquaculture produces over 50% of the seafood we consume today.
Although going vegan would be the best option in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, convincing folks to switch out a steak for oysters and salmon is a lot more realistic.
- Substituting Seafood. Recent research also indicates that beyond the CO2 impact, more seafood would also be critical for feeding a growing population a healthy diet. According to the journal Nature:
"Globally, we find that a high-production scenario will decrease [seafood] prices by 26% and increase their consumption, thereby reducing the consumption of red and processed meats that can lead to diet-related non-communicable diseases while also preventing approximately 166 million cases of inadequate micronutrient intake.
In other words, more seafood represents a win for the planet and for the people most at risk from malnutrition. Of course, not all seafood is equal, so traceability will matter — and is indeed critical to making this transition successful (Monterey Bay Seafood Watch).
- Less Waste. What about waste? An estimated 39% (USDA) to 50% (Gunders, 2012) of seafood is wasted (harvested but not consumed). That loss is massive, equating to enough protein to feed 12.4 million women for a year (or 10.1 million men). Much of the waste is outside our purview (bycatch on fishing boats or disposed of by restaurants/consumers). But a significant portion occurs within the distribution system. Seafood is more prone to wastage than meat since:
"Fish spoil quickly due to digestive enzymes, microbial spoilage, and oxidation, which change the odor, flavor and texture of fish (Ghaly et al., 2010); (iii) the different microbial and chemical food safety risks from seafood than from other meats, including histamine or scombroid food poisoning due to spoilage; (iv) strong odors that are not always associated with food safety risks, but may raise safety and quality concerns among retailers, food service providers and consumers."
Even a 10% reduction in wastage would deliver major benefits (Global Environmental Change, Sierra Club).
According to our customers, BlueTrace's tracking technology reduces loss and improves the safety of seafood. Even something as simple as giving folks alerts about the date seafood was harvested can have a huge impact.
Wild seafood has a lower carbon footprint than red meat, cheese, and chicken, according to latest data, Oceana: 2021