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Environmental assessment of the Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) season in the Basque Country. Increasing the timeline delimitation in fishery LCA studies



The purpose of this study was to evaluate the environmental impacts linked to fish extraction on a temporal basis, in order to analyze the effect that stock abundance variations may have on reporting environmental burdens. Inventory data for the North-East Atlantic Mackerel (NEAM) fishing season were collected over an 8-year period and used to carry out a life cycle assessment (LCA). The selected fishery corresponds to the Basque coastal purse seining fleet.

Materials and methods

The functional unit (FU) was set as 1 t of landed round fish in a Basque port during the NEAM fishing season for each of the selected years. The selected data for the life cycle inventory were gathered from personal communication from ship owners and from a fish first sale register in the Basque Country. A series of fishery-specific impact categories and indicators were included in the evaluation together with conventional impact categories.

Results and discussion

Conventional LCA impact categories showed that the environmental impact is dominated by the energy use in the fishery, despite of the low fuel effort identified with respect to other purse-seining fisheries. Nevertheless, strong differences were identified between annual environmental impacts, attributed mainly to remarkable variations in NEAM stock abundance from 1 year to another, whereas the fishing effort remained relatively stable throughout the assessed years. Fishery-specific categories, such as the discard rate or seafloor impact showed reduced impacts of this fishery respect to other small pelagic fish fisheries. Finally, the fishery in balance (FiB) index identified the evolution of NEAM stock abundance for this particular fishery.


To our knowledge, this is the first fishery LCA study in which there is sufficient inventory data in order to conduct the methodology throughout a wide period of time. The outstanding variance in environmental impacts from one season to another evidences the need to expand fishery LCAs in time, in order to attain a more integrated perspective of the environmental performance of a certain fishery or species.

The extension of LCA inventories in the timeline may be an important improvement for activities that rely entirely on the extraction of organisms from wild ecosystems. For instance, future research will have to determine the importance of increasing the timeline in fishery LCAs for species that do not show large stock abundance variations through time, unlike NEAM.

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Saioa Ramos wishes to thank the Basque Government and the Iñaki Goenaga Foundation for financial support. Ian Vázquez-Rowe wishes to thank the Galician Government for the financial support (María Barbeito Program). Furthermore, the authors would like to thank all the anonymous skippers and sailors who kindly agreed to answer the questions proposed in the questionnaires, as well as the team responsible for supplying the requested information from AZTI's marine database.

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Ramos, S., Vázquez-Rowe, I., Artetxe, I. et al. Environmental assessment of the Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) season in the Basque Country. Increasing the timeline delimitation in fishery LCA studies. Int J Life Cycle Assess 16, 599–610 (2011).

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  • Atlantic mackerel
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Purse seining
  • Scomber scombrus
  • Timeline analysis