Knowledge for better food systems

Environmental impacts of fish

Fiona_Graham's picture


I am a PhD student attempting to explore the relationship between GHGE and water footprints of food consumed in the UK. I am struggling to find a water footprint value for fish (namely tuna and salmon), presumably due the nature by which are they produced. Am I correct in assuming the water footprint value would be much lower than other animal/plant products since their water footprint would arise from the processing and packaging of the fish etc. only? Does anyone know of any work in this area?  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks,

Fiona's picture

Hi Fiona,

We have just finished a report for SARF/WWF  'A Risk Benefit Analysis of Mariculture as a Means to Reduce the Impacts of Terrestrial Production of Food and Energy' that covers some of your questions and I can  send it when its finally released we hope next week. For farmed fish generally a lot of the impacts (water/nutrients) are related to their food production, in common with terrestrial livestock. The impacts associated with harvest of wild products are obviously somewhat different and typically relate to abundance of the stocks and catch/effort with regard to GHG.

A key issue for water effiiciencies is if it is consumption or 'use' and , if the latter, does such use lead to a change in quality, and thus utility, of the water for other purposes.

cheers Dave

Fiona_Graham's picture

Hi Dave,

Thank you for your response and comments, they are very helpful. Your report for SARF/WFF would be really helpful too thank you. 

Best wishes,





Miguel Astudillo's picture


As Dave mentioned, a key issue is if you are just looking into water consumption or also water degradation. Aquaculture is often associated with eutrophication and I wouldn't necesarely assume that is negligible. Note however that the water footprint focus only on freshwater... So you may want to have a look to results of the WULCA working group that attempt to build a consensus on how to assess water in LCA. 

Best, Miguel

imax's picture
Submitted by imax on


Hi Fiona - I would say your assumption is correct. You can check for data on freshwater usage in the below references. Pls not that all aspects of freshwater consumption may not be fully considered and also that there are LARGE variations even between same systems beteween places and in time. /Max Troell 

- Troell, M. Metian, M. Beveridge, M. Verdegem, M. and Deutsch, L. (2014). Comment on ‘Water footprint of marine protein consumption—aquaculture’s link to agriculture’. Environ. Res. Lett. 9, 109001

- Gephart, JA, ML Pace and P D’Odorico (2014) Freshwater savings from marine protein consumption. Environmental Research Letters, 9

- Jessica A Gephart, Michael L Pace and Paolo D'Odorico 2014. Reply to Comment on 'Water footprint of marine protein consumption—aquaculture's link to freshwater.Environmental Research Letters, Volume 9, Number 10

- M. Pahlow et al. 2015. Increasing pressure on freshwater resources due to terrestrial feed ingredients for aquaculture production. Science of The Total Environment, Volume 536, 1 December 2015, Pages 847–857