Proposed Local Ecological Impact Categories and Indicators for Life Cycle Assessment of Aquaculture

A Salmon Aquaculture Case Study


  • Jennifer S. Ford,

  • Nathan L. Pelletier,

  • Friederike Ziegler,

  • Astrid J. Scholz,

  • Peter H. Tyedmers,

  • Ulf Sonesson,

  • Sarah A. Kruse,

  • Howard Silverman

Jennifer Ford, Oceans and Coastal Management Division, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Bedford Institute of Oceanography, PO Box 1006 Dartmouth, Nova Scotia B2Y 4A2, Canada. Email:


In this study we discuss impact categories and indicators to incorporate local ecological impacts into life cycle assessment (LCA) for aquaculture. We focus on the production stages of salmon farming—freshwater hatcheries used to produce smolts and marine grow-out sites using open netpens.

Specifically, we propose two impact categories: impacts of nutrient release and impacts on biodiversity. Proposed indicators for impacts of nutrient release are (1) the area altered by farm waste, (2) changes in nutrient concentration in the water column, (3) the percent of carrying capacity reached, (4) the percent of total anthropogenic nutrient release, and (5) release of wastes into freshwater. Proposed indicators for impacts on biodiversity are (1) the number of escaped salmon, (2) the number of reported disease outbreaks, (3) parasite abundance on farms, and (4) the percent reduction in wild salmon survival. For each proposed indicator, an example of how the indicator could be estimated is given and the strengths and weaknesses of that indicator are discussed.

We propose that including local environmental impacts as well as global-scale ones in LCA allows us to better identify potential trade-offs, where actions that are beneficial at one scale are harmful at another, and synchronicities, where actions have desirable or undesirable effects at both spatial scales. We also discuss the potential applicability of meta-analytic statistical techniques to LCA.