The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment

, Volume 12, Issue 6, pp 414–421 | Cite as

Impact categories for life cycle assessment research of seafood production systems: Review and prospectus

  • Nathan L. Pelletier
  • Nathan W. Ayer
  • Peter H. Tyedmers
  • Sarah A. Kruse
  • Anna Flysjo
  • Greg Robillard
  • Friederike Ziegler
  • Astrid J. Scholz
  • Ulf Sonesson
LCA Methodology


Goal, Scope and Background

In face of continued declines in global fisheries landings and concurrent rapid aquaculture development, the sustainability of seafood production is of increasing concern. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) offers a convenient means of quantifying the impacts associated with many of the energetic and material inputs and outputs in these industries. However, the relevant but limited suite of impact categories currently used in most LCA research fails to capture a number of important environmental and social burdens unique to fisheries and aquaculture. This article reviews the impact categories used in published LCA research of seafood production to date, reports on a number of methodological innovations, and discusses the challenges to and opportunities for further impact category developments.

Main Features

The range of environmental and socio-economic impacts associated with fisheries and aquaculture production are introduced, and both the commonly used and innovative impact categories employed in published LCA research of seafood production are discussed. Methodological innovations reported in agricultural LCAs are also reviewed for possible applications to seafood LCA research. Challenges and options for including additional environmental and socioeconomic impact categories are explored.


A review of published LCA research in fisheries and aquaculture indicates the frequent use of traditional environmental impact categories as well as a number of interesting departures from the standard suite of categories employed in LCA studies in other sectors. Notable examples include the modeling of benthic impacts, by-catch, emissions from anti-fouling paints, and the use of Net Primary Productivity appropriation to characterize biotic resource use. Socio-economic impacts have not been quantified, nor does a generally accepted methodology for their consideration exist. However, a number of potential frameworks for the integration of such impacts into LCA have been proposed.


LCA analyses of fisheries and aquaculture call attention to an important range of environmental interactions that are usually not considered in discussions of sustainability in the seafood sector. These include energy use, biotic resource use, and the toxicity of anti-fouling paints. However, certain important impacts are also currently overlooked in such research. While prospects clearly exist for improving and expanding on recent additions to environmental impact categories, the nature of the LCA framework may preclude treatment of some of these impacts. Socio-economic impact categories have only been described in a qualitative manner. Despite a number of challenges, significant opportunities exist to quantify several important socio-economic impacts.


The limited but increasing volume of LCA research of industrial fisheries and aquaculture indicates a growing interest in the use of LCA methodology to understand and improve the sustainability performance of seafood production systems. Recent impact category innovations, and the potential for further impact category developments that account for several of the unique interactions characteristic of fisheries and aquaculture will significantly improve the usefulness of LCA in this context, although quantitative analysis of certain types of impacts may remain beyond the scope of the LCA framework. The desirability of incorporating socio-economic impacts is clear, but such integration will require considerable methodological development.

Recommendations and Perspectives

While the quantity of published LCA research for seafood production systems is clearly increasing, the influence this research will have on the ground remains to be seen. In part, this will depend on the ability of LCA researchers to advance methodological innovations that enable consideration of a broader range of impacts specific to seafood production. It will also depend on the ability of researchers to communicate with a broader audience than the currently narrow LCA community.


Aquaculture fisheries impact categories LCA LCIA seafood 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alverson D, Freeberg M, Murawski S, Pope J (1994): A global assessment of fisheries bycatch and discards. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper no. 339, FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  2. Andersen O (2002): Transport of fish from Norway: energy analysis using industrial ecology as the framework. J Clean Prod 10, 581–588CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson J, Fong Q (1997): Aquaculture and international trade. Aquaculture Econ Manage 1(1) 29–44Google Scholar
  4. Andersson K, Ohlsson T, Olsson P (1994): LCA of food products and production systems. Trends Food Sci Tech 134–138Google Scholar
  5. Andersson K (2000): LCA of food products and production systems. Int J LCA 5(4) 239–248Google Scholar
  6. Berg H, Michelsen P, Troell M, Kautsky N (1996): Managing aquaculture for sustainability in tropical Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe. Ecol Econ 18, 141–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brentrup F, Kusters J, Lamel J, Kuhlmann H (2002): Life cycle impact assessment of land use based on the Hemeroby concept. Int J Life Cycle Ass 7(6) 339–348Google Scholar
  8. Catchpole T, Frid C, Gray T (2005): Discards in North Sea fisheries: causes, consequences and solutions. Mar Policy 29(5) 421–430CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Christensen V, Guenette S, Heymans J, Walters C, Watson R, Zeller D, Pauly D (2003): Hundred-year decline of North Atlantic predatory fishes. Fish Fish 4(1) 1–24Google Scholar
  10. Consoli F, Allen D, Boustead I, Fava J, Franklin W, Jensen A, de Oude N, Parrish R, Perriman R, Postlethwaite D, Quay B, Sequin J, Vignon B (1993): Guidelines for life cycle assessment: A ‘Code of Practice’. Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Brussels and PensacolaGoogle Scholar
  11. Cowell S, Clift R (2000): A methodology for assessing soil quantity and quality in life cycle assessment. J Clean Prod 8, 321–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chuenpagdee R, Morgan L, Maxwell S, Norse E, Pauly D (2003): Shifting Gears: Assessing collateral impacts of fishing methods in US waters. Front Ecol Environ 1(10) 517–524CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Derraik J (2002): The pollution of the marine environment by plastic debris: A review Mar Pollut Bull 44(9) 842–852CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dreyer L, Hauschild M, Schierbeck J (2006): A framework for social life cycle impact assessment. Int J LCA 11(2) 88–97Google Scholar
  15. Einum S, Fleming I (1997): Genetic divergence and interactions in the wild among native, farmed and hybrid Atlantic salmon. J Fish Biol 50, 634–651CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ellingsen H (2004): Working environment and LCA. Chapter 6 of Environmental Assessment of Seafood Products through LCA: Final report of a Nordic Network project. Mattsson B, Ziegler F (eds), Nordic Council of Ministers, Copenhagen, DenmarkGoogle Scholar
  17. Findlay R, Watling R, Mayer L (1995): Environmental impact of salmon net-pen culture on marine benthic communities in Maine — A case study. Estuaries 18(1A) 145–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fleming I, Hindar K, Mjolnerod I, Jonsson B, Balstad T, Lamberg A (2000): Lifetime success and interactions of farm salmon invading a native population. P Roy Soc B-Biol Sci 267, 1517–1523CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Folke C (1988): Energy economy of salmon aquaculture in the Baltic Sea. Environ Manage 12(4) 525–537CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Folke C, Kautsky N, Troell M (1992): The cost of eutrophication from salmon farming: Implications for policy. Environ Manage 40, 173–182Google Scholar
  21. Folke C, Kautsky N, Berg H, Jansson A, Troell M (1998): The ecological footprint concept for sustainable seafood production: A review. Ecol Appl 8(1) S63–S71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Food and Agriculture Organization (2004): The state of world fisheries and aquaculture 2004. FAO Fisheries Department, Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, RomeGoogle Scholar
  23. Glass C (2000): Conservation of fish stocks through bycatch reduction: A review. Northeast Nat 7(4) 395–410Google Scholar
  24. Guinee J, Gorree M, Heijungs R, Huppes G, Kleijn R, de Koning A, van Oers L, Weneger A, Suh S, Udo de Haes H, de Bruin H, Duin R, Huijbregts M (2001): Life Cycle Assessment: An operational guide to the ISO Standards Part 2. Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and Environment, The Hague, NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  25. Haas G, Wetterich F, Kopke U (2001): Comparing intensive, extensified and organic grassland farming in southern Germany by process life cycle assessment. Agr Ecosyst Environ 83, 43–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hall S, Mainprize B (2005): Managing by-catch and discards: how much progress are we making and how can we do better? Fish Fish 6(2) 134–155Google Scholar
  27. Harrington J, Myers R, Rosenberg A (2005): Wasted fishery resources: discarded by-catch in the USA. Fish Fish 6(4) 350–361Google Scholar
  28. Hastein T (1995): Disease Problems, Use of Drugs, Resistance Problems and Preventive Measures in Fish Farming World Wide. In: Reinertsen H, Haaland H (eds), Sustainable Fish Farming: Proceedings of the First International Symposium on Sustainable Fish Farming, Oslo, Norway, 28–31 August 1994, A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, pp 183–194Google Scholar
  29. Hayman B, Dogliani M, Kvale I, Fet A (2000): Technologies for reduced environmental impact from ships — Ship building, maintenance and dismantling aspects. ENSUS-2000, Newcastle upon Tyne, United KingdomGoogle Scholar
  30. Heller M, Keoleian G (2003): Assessing sustainability of the US Food System: A life cycle perspective. Agr Syst 76, 1007–1041CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hites R, Foran J, Carpenter D, Hamilton M, Knuth B, Schwager S (2004): Global assessment of organic contaminants in farmed salmon. Science 303(5655) 226–229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hospido A, Tyedmers P (2005): Life cycle environmental impacts of Spanish tuna fisheries. Fish Res 76, 174–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. International Organization for Standardization (2003): ISO 14041, Geneva, Switzerland. <> (accessed October 19, 2005)
  34. Jackson J, Kirby M, Berger W, Bjorndal K, Botsford L, Bourque B, Bradbury R, Cooke R, Erlandson J, Estes J, Hughes T, Kidwell S, Lange C, Warner R (2001): Historical overfishing and the recent collapse of coastal ecosystems. Science 293, 629–638CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Jensen A, Hoffman L, Birgite T, Schmidt A, Christiansen K, Berendsen S, Elkington J, van Dijk F (1999): Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) — A guide to approaches, experiences, and information sources. Environmental Issue Report No. 6, European Environment Agency, CopenhagenGoogle Scholar
  36. Johnson K (2002): Review of National and International Literature on the Effects of Fishing on Benthic Habitats. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS F/SPO, no. 57, Maryland, USAGoogle Scholar
  37. Karlsen H, Angelfoos A (2000): Transport of frozen fish between Ålensund and Paris — A case study. Technical report no. HiÅ 20 20/B101/R-00/020/00, Ålensund College, Ålensund, NorwayGoogle Scholar
  38. Krkosek M, Lewis M, Volpe J, Morton A (2006): Fish farms and sea lice infestations of wild juvenile salmon in the Broughton Archipelago — A rebuttal to Brooks (2005). Rev Fish Sci 14(1-1) 1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Larsson J, Folke C, Kautsky N (1994): Ecological limitations and appropriation of ecosystem support by shrimp farming in Columbia. Environ Manage 18(5) 663–676CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mattsson B, Ziegler F (2004): Environmental assessment of seafood products through LCA. Final Report of a Nordic Network Project 546. Environment and Fisheries, Nordic Council of Ministers, CopenhagenGoogle Scholar
  41. Mitchell C, Cleveland C (1993): Resource scarcity, energy use and environmental impact: A case study of the New Bedford, Massachusetts, USA, fisheries. Environ Manage 17(3) 305–317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mungkung R (2005): Shrimp aquaculture in Thailand: Application of life cycle assessment to support sustainable development. Ph.D. thesis. Center for Environmental Strategy, School of Engineering, University of Surrey, United KingdomGoogle Scholar
  43. Mungkung R, Udo de Haes H, Clift R (2006): Potentials and limitations of life cycle assessment in setting ecolabeling criteria: A case study of Thai shrimp aquaculture product. Int J LCA 11(1) 55–59Google Scholar
  44. Myers R, Worm B (2003): Rapid worldwide depletion of predatory fish communities. Nature 423, 280–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Naylor R, Burke M (2005): Aquaculture and ocean resources: Raising tigers of the sea. Annu Rev Env Resour 30, 185–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Naylor R, Goldburg R, Mooney H, Beveridge M, Clay J, Folke C, Kautsky N, Lubchenco J, Primavera J, Williams M (1998): Nature’s subsidies to shrimp and salmon farming. Science 282(5390) 83–884CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Naylor R, Goldburg R, Primavera J, Kautsky N, Beveridge M, Clay J, Folke C, Lubchenco J, Mooney H, Troell M (2000): Effect of aquaculture on world fish supplies. Nature 405, 1017–1024CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Nilsson P, Ziegler F (2006): Spatial distribution of fishing effort in relation to seafloor habitats of the Kattegat, a GIS analysis. Aquat Conserve (in press)Google Scholar
  49. O’Brien M, Doig A, Clift R (1996): Social and environmental life cycle assessment (SELCA): Approach and methodological development. Int J LCA 1(4) 231–237Google Scholar
  50. Owens J (2002): Water resources in life cycle impact assessment: Considerations in choosing category indicators. J Ind Ecol 5(2) 37–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Paez-Osuna F (2001): The environmental impact of shrimp aquaculture: A global perspective. Environ Pollut 112(2) 229–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Papatryphon E, Petit J, Kaushik S, Van der Werf H (2004): Environmental impact assessment of salmonid feeds using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Ambio 33(6) 316–323CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Papatryphon E, Petit J, Van der Werf H, Kaushik S (2003): Life Cycle Assessment of trout farming in France: A farm level approach. Life Cycle Assessment in the agrifood sector. Proceedings from the 4th International Conference Dias Report 61, 71–77Google Scholar
  54. Pauly D, Alder J, Bennett E, Christensen V, Tyedmers P, Watson R (2003): The Future for Fisheries. Science 302, 1359–1361CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Pauly D, Christensen V (1995): Primary production required to sustain global fisheries. Nature 374(16) 255–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Pauly D, Christensen V, Guénette S, Pitcher T, Sumaila U, Walters C, Watson R, Weller D (2002): Towards sustainability in world fisheries. Nature 418, 689–695CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Pennington D, Potting J, Finnveden G, Lindeijer E, Jolliet O, Rydberg T, Rebitzer G (2004): Life Cycle Assessment part 2: Current impact assessment practice. Environ Int 30, 721–739CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Read A, Drinker P, Northridge S (2006): Bycatch of marine mammals in US and global fisheries. Conserv Biol 20(1) 163–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sabatella E, Franquesa R (2004): Manual of Fisheries Sampling Surveys: Methodologies for Estimations of Socio-Economic Indicators in the Mediterranean Sea. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, ItalyGoogle Scholar
  60. Seppala J, Silvenius F, Gronroos J, Makinen T, Silvo K, Storhammar E (2001): Rainbow trout production and the environment. The Finnish Environment Institute, Suomen ymparisto 529. Technical Report, Helsinki (in Finnish)Google Scholar
  61. Thrane M (2004a): Environmental Impacts from Danish Fish Products — Hot spots and environmental policies. Ph.D. Dissertation. Department of Development and Planning, Aalborg University, DenmarkGoogle Scholar
  62. Thrane M (2004b): Energy consumption in the Danish fishery. Identification of key factors. J Indus Ecol 8(1–2) 223–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Thrane M (2006): LCA of Danish fish products: New methods and insights. Int J LCA 11(1) 66–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Tyedmers P (2000): Salmon and sustainability: The biophysical cost of producing salmon through the commercial salmon fishery and the intensive salmon culture industry. PhD. Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  65. Tyedmers P (2004): Fisheries and Energy Use. In: Cleveland C (ed), Encyclopedia of Energy. Elsevier Science 2, 683–693Google Scholar
  66. Tyedmers P, Watson R, Pauly D (2005): Fueling global fishing fleets. Ambio 34(8) 635–638CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Udo de Haes H, Jolliet O, Finnveden G, Hauschild M, Krewitt W, Muller-Wenk R (1999): Best available practice regarding impact categories and category indicators in life cycle impact assessment. Int J LCA 4(2) 66–74Google Scholar
  68. Vitousek P, Ehrlich P, Ehrlich A, Matson P (1986): Human appropriation of the products of photosynthesis. BioScience 36(6) 368–373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Watanabe H, Okubo M (1989): Energy Input in Marine Fisheries of Japan. B Jpn Soc Sci Fish 53(9) 1525–1531Google Scholar
  70. Weidema B (2002): Quantifying Corporate Social Responsibility in the Value Chain. Presentation for the Life Cycle Management Workshop of the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative at the ISO TC207 meeting, Johannesburg, South AfricaGoogle Scholar
  71. Worm B, Myers R (2004): Managing fisheries in a changing climate — No need to wait for more information: industrialized fishing is already wiping out stocks. Nature 429(6987) 15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Youngson A, Verspoor E (1998): Interactions between wild and introduced Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Can J Fish Aquat Sci 55, 153–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Ziegler F, Hansson P (2003): Emissions from fuel combustion in Swedish cod fishery. J Clean Prod 11, 303–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Ziegler F, Nilsson P, Mattsson B, Walther Y (2003): Life Cycle Assessment of frozen cod fillets including fishery-specific environmental impacts. Int J LCA 8(1) 39–47Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ecomed 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nathan L. Pelletier
    • 1
  • Nathan W. Ayer
    • 1
  • Peter H. Tyedmers
    • 1
  • Sarah A. Kruse
    • 2
  • Anna Flysjo
    • 3
  • Greg Robillard
    • 2
  • Friederike Ziegler
    • 3
  • Astrid J. Scholz
    • 2
  • Ulf Sonesson
    • 3
  1. 1.School for Resource and Environmental Studies (SRES), Faculty of ManagementDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.EcotrustPortlandUSA
  3. 3.The Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology (SIK)GöteborgSweden

Personalised recommendations