What role can Scottish-caught pelagic fish plan in delivering a climate smart future?

  • Frances Sandison

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (awarded by OU/Aberdeen)


    This thesis investigates the potential role of Scottish-caught pelagic fish in delivering a climate smart future. Due to a rising population and changing climate, there is pressure to identify options for sustainably increasing food production in a way that is consistent with policy objectives related to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and mitigating impacts of climate change. Climate smart food sources are those that have a low carbon footprint (CF), have a high resilience against the changing climate and can be sustainable increased to meet growing demand. With anthropogenic GHG emissions the main driver of climate change, and food-related GHG emissions being responsible for approximately 21-37% of all anthropogenic global GHG emissions, it is imperative to identify low carbon food sources. Using CF as a key indicator, this thesis examined the climate related impacts of Scottish-caught pelagic fish to determine if they met this tenant of climate smart food production. Scottish caught pelagic fish were found to have a CF of 0.452 kg CO2 eq. per kg of fish landed. This was found to be comparatively lower both than many other seafood types and the CF of meat from terrestrial agriculture.
    The role Scottish-caught pelagic fish could play in improving the nation’s nutritional intake was also investigated as the first step towards a more sustainable, healthier diet, with Atlantic mackerel and Atlantic herring both showing a much higher nutritional density (ND) than other more commonly consumed meats in Scotland (10.0 and 10.5 respectively compared to a score of 3.9 or less for other meats consumed). This showed that increasing consumption of Scottish caught pelagic fish in favour of other more common protein sources would both increase nutritional intake and decrease protein related dietary CF. Finally, with ecolabels serving as indicators to help the general population identify sustainable produce, the prevalence of climate smart metrics in seafood ecolabels were assessed. It was found that no seafood ecolabels included CF or any kind of GHG quantification methods in their essential criteria for certification. While a range of different inclusion levels were found (including partial inclusion: 3%, non-essential inclusion: 3%, inclusion of related criteria: 7%, promotes the use of renewable energy: 31%), the majority (52%) showed no inclusion of climate smart metrics at all.
    The findings of this thesis confirm Scottish-caught pelagic fish meet the requirement of a climate smart food source in that they have a low CF. It shows that Scottish caught pelagic fish offer a climate smart way to improve the national diet and fulfil dietary National health goals while making progress towards the goal of net zero GHG emissions. Although no current seafood ecolabels were found to include climate smart metrics into their sustainability assessment, it is anticipated that this will change in the near future as pressures from both consumers and industry push towards the inclusion of CF in definitions of sustainability.
    Date of Award2021
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Aberdeen
    SupervisorTara Marshall (Supervisor), Astley Hastings (Supervisor), Beth Mouat (Supervisor) & Paul MacDonald (Supervisor)

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