Increasing the eco-efficiency of fishing fleets is currently a major target issue in the seafood sector. This objective has been influenced in recent years by soaring fuel prices, a fact particularly relevant to a sector whose vessels present high energy consumption rates. Efforts to minimize fuel consumption in fishing fleets result in economic benefits and also in important reductions regarding environmental impacts. In this article, we combine life cycle assessment (LCA) and data envelopment analysis (DEA) to jointly discuss the operational and environmental performances of a set of multiple, similar entities.
We applied the “five-step LCA + DEA method” to a wide range of vessels for selected Galician fisheries, including deep-sea, offshore, and coastal fleets. The environmental consequences of operational inefficiencies were quantified and target performance values benchmarked for inefficient vessels. We assessed the potential environmental performance of target vessels to verify eco-efficiency criteria (lower input consumption levels, lower environmental impacts).
Results revealed the strong dependence of environmental impacts on one major operational input: fuel consumption. The most intensive fuel-consuming fleets, such as deep sea trawling, were found to entail the diesel consumption levels nearest to the efficiency values. Despite the reduced environmental contributions linked to other operational inputs, such as hull material, antifouling paint, or nets, these may contribute to substantial economic savings when minimized. Finally, given that Galicia is a major fishing region, many of the conclusions and perspectives obtained in this study may be extrapolated to other fishing fleets at the international level.