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Keywords:

  • Carbon footprint;
  • energy use;
  • fuel use;
  • global fisheries

Abstract

Compared to a century ago, the world's fishing fleets are larger and more powerful, are travelling further and are producing higher quality products. These developments come largely at a cost of high-fossil fuel energy inputs. Rising energy prices, climate change and consumer demand for ‘green’ products have placed energy use and emissions among the sustainability criteria of food production systems. We have compiled all available published and unpublished fuel use data for fisheries targeting all species, employing all gears and fishing in all regions of the world into a Fisheries and Energy Use Database (FEUD). Here, we present results of our analysis of the relative energy performance of fisheries since 1990 and provide an overview of the current state of knowledge on fuel inputs to diverse fishing fleets. The median fuel use intensity of global fishery records since 1990 is 639 litres per tonne. Fuel inputs to fisheries vary by several orders of magnitude, with small pelagic fisheries ranking among the world's most efficient forms of animal protein production and crustaceans ranking among the least efficient. Trends in Europe and Australia since the beginning of the 21st century suggest fuel use efficiency is improving, although this has been countered by a more rapid increase in oil prices. Management decisions, technological improvements and behavioural changes can further reduce fuel consumption in the short term, although the most effective improvement to fisheries energy performance will come as a result of rebuilding stocks where they are depressed and reducing over-capacity.