Quantifying and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from global aquaculture

M MacLeod, Mohammad R Hasan, David HF Robb, M. Mamun-Ur-Rashid

Research output: Book/Report/Policy Brief/Technical BriefCommissioned report

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Global aquaculture makes an important contribution to food security directly
(by increasing food availability and accessibility) and indirectly (as a driver of
economic development). In order to enable sustainable expansion of aquaculture, we need to understand aquaculture’s contribution to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and how it can be mitigated. This study quantifies the global GHG emissions from aquaculture1 (excluding farming of aquatic plants) and explains how cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) could be used to appraise GHG mitigation measures. Cost-effective mitigation of GHG from aquaculture can make a direct contribution to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 13 (Climate Action), while supporting food security (Goal 2: Zero Hunger), and economic development (Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth).
Aquaculture accounted for approximately 0.45 percent of global anthropogenic
GHG emissions in 2013, which is similar in magnitude to the emissions from
sheep production. The modest emissions reflect the low emissions intensity of
aquaculture, compared to terrestrial livestock (in particular cattle, sheep and goats), which is due largely to the absence of enteric CH4 in aquaculture, combined with the high fertility and low feed conversion ratios of finfish and shellfish. However,the low emissions from aquaculture should not be grounds for complacency.
Aquaculture production is increasing rapidly, and emissions arising from postfarm activities, which are not included in the 0.45 percent, could increase the emissions intensity of some supply chains significantly. Furthermore, aquaculture can have important non-GHG impacts on, for example, water quality and marine biodiversity. It is therefore important to continue to improve the efficiency of global aquaculture to offset increases in production so that it can continue to make an important contribution to food security. Fortunately, the relatively immature nature of the sector (compared to agriculture) means that there is great scope to improve resource efficiency through technical innovation. CEA can be used to help identify the most cost-effective efficiency improvements. In this technical paper we explain CEA and provide an example illustrating how it could be applied to tilapia
production, and provide some guidance on how to interpret the results of CEA.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationRome
PublisherFood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Commissioning bodyFood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Number of pages49
ISBN (Print)978-92-5-131992-5
Publication statusPrint publication - 3 Dec 2019

Publication series

NameFAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper


  • Aquaculture
  • Climate change mitigation


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