BIM’s Climate Action in Seafood Seminar hears Irish seafood has a low carbon footprint.

The Irish seafood sector has a low carbon footprint, with carbon emissions less than 2% of Ireland’s total carbon emissions, a seminar heard today (Tuesday 28 November 2023). The one-day seminar, hosted by BIM in partnership with the Marine Institute, brings representatives from across Ireland’s seafood sector together with experts in the fields of climate change, marine, renewable energies, and greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting from the fishing, aquaculture, and seafood processing sectors.

A study by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the State agency that supports the development of the seafood sector in Ireland, has found that carbon emissions in seafood are minor in the context of national emissions. The report sets a GHG greenhouse gas emissions baseline for the Irish seafood sector, incorporating the Irish fishing vessel fleet and aquaculture, creating a benchmark to measure future emissions. It revealed that the total Irish fish catch and aquaculture segments represent just 1.76% of Ireland’s total carbon emissions.

Farmed mussels, oysters and wild-caught mackerel in particular have very low carbon emissions. This study has pulled together seafood carbon data for the first time, and identifies areas to minimise carbon emissions associated with seafood production. The report stresses the need for a detailed decarbonising plan to ensure that the seafood sector plays its part in Ireland’s ambition to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The comprehensive study took almost two years to complete, delivering data from industry and other stakeholders. The findings of the report demonstrate how the sector is producing a beneficial and nutritious food with low environmental impacts. However, it was noted at the seminar that the Irish seafood sector is diverse, and the carbon footprint of different seafood products varies depending on the species and the methods used to cultivate or catch them.

Speaking at the opening of the seminar, Dominic Rihan, Economics and Strategic Services Director, BIM explained, “The Irish seafood sector is undergoing a transformation in how we do things, how we fuel our fleets, how we grow our shellfish, and feed our salmon. The industry is looking at a range of new technologies, alternative fuel sources as well as operational changes to reduce their carbon emissions. Investment in the future for such initiatives will be provided through the European and Maritime, Aquaculture and Fisheries Fund, under which Ireland has received total funding of €258.4 million. There is also a lot of work done on waste and plastics reduction. All these initiatives contribute to lower GHG emissions from the sector.”

Experts from Ireland and abroad, who attended the seminar, heard that the Irish seafood sector is deeply aware of the focus on sustainability and the need to decarbonise. They see climate action and achieving net zero as a primary objective in the decades to come.

Mr. Rihan said, “The opportunity is to provide consumers with seafood that is healthy and nutritious, and in so doing to sustain a prosperous seafood sector that will continue to directly employ over 8,000 people in the coastal regions of Ireland. There is also a clear need for business level climate action advisory services, so that seafood businesses are clear in terms of what they should be doing from an emissions perspective.”

According to the report, the drivers for decarbonising the Irish seafood sector will intensify in the future. The main drivers for emission reduction are national commitments to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, thus maintaining ecosystem biodiversity and sustainability, consumer demand for low-carbon products, and increasing fuel costs.

A link to the full report is available here