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Wild-Caught, Farmed Fish Have Same Climate Impact, Study Shows

Cod and plaice fished in the North Sea have the same environmental impact as farmed salmon and tilapia, according to a study by Dutch agricultural researcher LEI, an affiliate of Wageningen University.

Life-cycle analysis of wild catch and farmed fish found no “significant difference” in energy use or global warming potential, LEI wrote in a report published online today.

Energy use per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cod or plaice is higher than for beef, pork or chicken, while the effect on global warming is similar because of emission of greenhouse gases such as methane by livestock and manure, LEI wrote. Technologies to curb fuel use would improve the environmental impact of wild-caught fish, according to the researcher.

“Both the wild-caught sector and aquaculture can improve their environmental performance,” the researchers wrote. “The life-cycle impact of North Sea fishing is linearly related to fuel consumption.”

Consumers hold fisheries responsible for loss of biodiversity and environmental damage, LEI said. New fishing techniques and fuel-saving technology may lead to “significant reductions” in environmental impact, according to LEI.

“Various relatively cheap whitefish products are imported in large quantities in Europe and compete with wild-caught, freshly landed North Sea whitefish,” the researchers wrote. “In France and Spain, this has already led to serious problems for the domestic fishing sector.”

To improve the marketing position of wild-caught fish, more information is needed on how wild catch compares with farmed fish, according to LEI.

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