The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 66-74

First online:

LCA of Danish Fish Products. New methods and insights (9 pp)

  • Mikkel ThraneAffiliated withMikkel Thrane, Assistant Professor, PhD, M.Sc. (Eng.) Aalborg University Dept. of Development and Planning Fibigerstræde 13 9220 Aalborg Denmark Email author 

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Goal, Scope and Background

This article presents the main results from a PhD dissertation about environmental impacts from Danish fish products. The focus is on LCA results for flatfish, but the article also gives an overview of screenings of other fish species. Furthermore, it includes an analysis of the energy consumption in the fishing stage – as a function of fish species and fishing methods. Alternative impact categories that have not been included in the quantitative LCA and policy perspectives are elaborated in the discussion part of the paper.


The study represents a consequential LCA approach (opposed to attributional) and the functional unit is one kg consumed flatfish filet in units of 300 gram (cardboard boxes). Data are obtained from statistics, interviews, literature, and databases – mainly ETH-ESU 96 and the Danish LCA food database. The EDIP 97 method has been applied for life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) and the results have been verified by Ecoindicator 99.


The results of the flatfish LCA show that the fishing stage has the largest impact potential for the investigated impact categories. This is mainly due to a relatively high fuel consumption and significant emissions of biocides from anti-fouling agents (contributing to ecological toxicity). But large reductions in fuel intensity (fuel consumption per kg caught fish) can be obtained by changing the type of fishing gear – particularly in flatfish fisheries. The consumption and retail stages represent significant impact potentials as well, while processing is insignificant. LCA screenings of other fish species show the same picture, but there are cases (herring, mackerel and mussels) where the fishing stage is less important, while the opposite is the case for processing – mainly due to energy intensive packaging materials.


A limited number of impact categories have been investigated, but a 'qualitative' LCA, focusing on other fishery specific impacts, emphasises that the fishing stage is indeed the overall most important. In this regard, it is argued that fuel requirements in many cases are proportional to environmental impacts related to 'discard' and 'seafloor damage'. Hence, it is worth focusing on energy for many reasons. In a policy context, it is a paradox that mainly the fish processing industry has been subjected to environmental regulations.

Recommendation and Perspective

Future scenarios indicate that energy consumption will remain one of the most important environmental aspects in the fishing stage – partly due to regulations of anti-fouling biocides (e.g. TBT) and partly because of the continued depletion of fish stocks. From an environmental policy perspective, it is therefore recommended to broaden the perspective of existing fishery regulations and increase the focus on fishing gear and energy in the primary production (fishing stage).

fishery Denmark; flatfish; environmental regulation and policies; beam trawl; Danish seine, fishing methods; co-product allocation; system expansion; consequential LCA