The environmental cost of animal source foods

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The environmental cost of animal source foods

Following work conducted as part of her Master’s thesis, this past June, Teressa co-published a paper with Ray Hilborn titled “The environmental cost of animal source foods” in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. This meta-analysis used life cycle assessment (LCA) as a tool for providing insights into which animal food choices are the most environmentally responsible by quantifiably measuring the environmental impacts (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions) of a production system from a cradle to grave perspective. Calculated results from 148 LCA studies were compared, focusing on livestock production, aquaculture, and capture fisheries. The analysis highlighted beef production and catfish farming as the systems with the highest greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, and potential for eutrophication and acidification.

Washingtonians may find it unsurprising that non-fed aquaculture production, particularly of mollusk species, were identified as having the lowest cost to the environment due to their low energy and resource demands. Small pelagic fisheries also have low costs as a result of capture efficiency. The purpose of this paper was to highlight environmentally friendly food systems, discuss the need for further research into reducing environmental impacts, and to stimulate a conversation on how we define ‘sustainability’.

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Karen attends the 2018 Seafood Summit

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Karen attends the 2018 Seafood Summit

This past June, Karen attended the 2018 Seafood Summit in Barcelona as one of 5 Seafood Scholars. The Summit brings together global representatives from the seafood industry with leaders from the conservation community, academia, and government. The goal of the Summit is to define success and advance solutions in sustainable seafood by fostering dialogue and partnerships that lead to a seafood marketplace that is environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable. Supported by SeaWeb, Karen was able to attend the 18th Seafood Summit to share lessons learned from her Master’s work on fishery improvement projects, as well as, learn about the work of global fisheries experts. This year, one of the biggest topics of discussion was how to incorporate social responsibility into the seafood sector, with emphasis on how worker voices are a key element of building socially responsible seafood supply chains.

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Eddie spends summer at the Lancaster Environment Center

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Eddie spends summer at the Lancaster Environment Center

For a month this summer, Eddie has been a Distinguished Visitor with the Lancaster Environment Center (LEC) at Lancaster University in the UK, with Drs Christina Hicks and Nick Graham, pictured above enjoying an impromptu after-work picnic, overlooking the Morecambe Bay estuary. Together, they have been working on publications and research proposals at the intersection between fisheries, nutrition and health. Eddie also gave a talk on ‘Fishing for Nutrition’ at LEC on July 4th, and on July 11th was interviewed about waste in fish value chains on BBC World Service Radio’s ‘Newsday’ program. 

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Uncovering freshwater fish harvest

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Uncovering freshwater fish harvest

In the absence of complete freshwater fish catch data, how can we assess and value the contribution of freshwater fish to local consumption? This is the central question recently explored by Fluet-Chouinard et al. in Global hidden harvest of freshwater fish revealed by household surveys. Understanding that "experts have long believed that fish catches from rivers and lakes are underreported" they backcalculated freshwater fish harvests using surveys of household consumption. Having collected data from 548,000 households across 42 countries, they found that:

  • freshwater catches are likely to be ∼65% higher than officially reported
  • these hidden harvests are concentrated in low-income countries where they represent the equivalent of the total annual animal protein consumption of 36.9 million people, and
  • long-term underreporting of inland fisheries masks their critical role in feeding the world’s poor and complicates using catch statistics to evaluate the impact of overharvest and ecosystem degradation 

This study provides a way of estimating inland water freshwater fish production in a manner that maybe easier than the difficult task of assessing and monitoring freshwater fish catches. Additionally, it yields useful information on people's diets and the nutrient contribution of fish to those diets. As noted above, the headline finding is that we currently underestimate global inland fish catches by 65%. Inland fish catches are more important than we thought, and need to be considered in water resource management and food and nutrition policies. 

This week, Eddie and colleague Dave Mills of WorldFish published a commentary piece to Fluet-Chouinard et al.'s publication, entitled Counting the fish eaten rather than the fish caught in which they argue that Fluet-Chouinard's use of household food consumption surveys provides a critical methodology and potential solution to long-term underreporting of inland fisheries. This methodology contributes to a rapidly growing policy discussion about the role of fish in nutrition and food security. 

Both articles are available upon request. 

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Studying Sustainable Seafood in Seattle

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Studying Sustainable Seafood in Seattle

For the past year, a group of MARINA lab students (Emily, Henry, Kadie, and Brittany) have been working on a project attempting to understand what it means for Seattle to be a "sustainable US seafood city." Last week, the group presented findings from their project at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Seattle, WA. In addition, the group published a blog post with The Nature Conservancy - a partner in this project - summarizing some of their findings. Take a look at their post here!

 

Photo Credit: TNC / Bridget Besaw

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