Food production on land is and will continue to be the main reason why biodiversity and habitats are being lost worldwide. Agriculture is the leading cause of around one-third of the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and is responsible for contributing significantly more towards climate change than the world’s production of electricity or heat. What is the comparative environmental effect of seafood?
Emission of Greenhouse Gases (GHG)
Humans, through GHG emissions, are responsible for many global environmental problems. GHGs emitted into the atmosphere trap the heat and caused the planet’s temperature to increase. The rising temperatures lead to greater sea levels, more heat waves and droughts, as well as unusual patterns of rainfall, and more violent and more intense storms that could threaten the health of people around the world.
In general, protein is the high-carbon nutrient that your body needs. The World Resources Institute made the graph below to compare the amount of carbon equivalent GHG that is given off by each gram of protein.
Lamb, beef, and even goats can be among the horrific for the earth because these animals are considered ruminants that depend on certain bacteria in their stomachs for the digestion of food. The bacteria produce a massive amount of methane which is a powerful GHG that is the major source of global warming.
The consequences of other animal proteins depend on the quantity of food that is required to nourish and good care of your animal. For example, chickens are much better than turkeys in making meat from feed, which means they have a slightly lower impact on the climate. Before being shipped to farms, animal feed must be harvested, grown, and processed, all of which contribute to emissions. Fish caught in wild habitats feed by themselves, so they are a minor pollutant in the animal protein category. The emissions from commercial fishing mostly result from the burning of fuel on boats to go fishing. Thus, the ecological footprint of the seafood industry is based on the species of fish caught. For an instance, lobsters and shrimp produce greater carbon-emissions due to the fact that vessels have to stop before making traps. Salmon emissions are significantly lower because they are easier to gather and are located near the shore.
Proteins derived from plants produce emissions proportionate to their protein content. Food must be prepared, harvested, and transported, all of which cost money due to the emission of greenhouse gases. So, foods that are denser have more protein per pound of weight. Because 1 kg of fish has more protein than 1 lb of nuts, the amount of carbon released per gram of fish protein is less, as shown in the graph above.
Climatic Change published a major study on GHG emissions from food in 2014. The study looked at how different diets affect the amount of GHGs released every day. The researchers put people into groups based on how much meat, fish, vegetables, and/or dairy they ate. The findings are mostly consistent with expectations: consuming more meat increases carbon dioxide emissions. But strict vegetarians and people who only eat fish have the same emission profile, with a difference of about 1%. Vegans are one of the most Eco-friendly groups of people.
Most people in the United States and other industrialised nations consume more than 1.5 pounds every week. If a person who eats a lot of meat switched from fish to beef, it would be like driving 6,000 miles less in a year.
Space and Water
Fish caught in the wild has two additional advantages over food grown on land in terms of the available space and water. The production of livestock and agriculture in the terrestrial environment consumes more than 50 percent of the arable land in the world. It accounts for more than ninety percent of the usage of freshwater. With the global population forecast to surpass 9 billion by 2050, our freshwater and land resources will expand to accommodate the rising need for food.
Agriculture is guilty of the loss of millions of acres of grasslands and forests, the pollution caused by diversion, drought, the depletion of rivers and other water bodies, and the loss of many species throughout the globe. However, global hunger is at a record low and many more than before having access to the health benefits of food. The conservation of wilderness requires the art of balancing the need for food and its preservation.
The amount of space we can protect from agricultural activities is greatly influenced by the type of food we consume. Not all food items have the same environmental impact. For instance, only four agricultural products, including soy, beef, wood products and palm oil, are the leading cause of the destruction of rain forests. The majority of the world’s soy is utilised as pet food, land-based meat, especially ruminant meat, is a significant contributor to deforestation. The demand for red meat is, most likely, the most significant factor in deforestation throughout the globe.
As food production rises, it’s absurd to imagine pure water at a record low. Water is more important than any other, but the population is less hydrated than they have ever. Some of them are transferred to dams to generate electricity. However, most of the water used worldwide is used to grow livestock and crops. There are millions of individuals who do not have access to clean water for drinking. There is a large effect caused by water contamination, the majority of which originates from agricultural runoff and includes pesticides and fertilisers.
Compared to land-based foods, seafood has a lower effect on freshwater and the environment.
Apart from being among the most eco-friendly foods available, wild-caught fish require no an area of surface or freshwater. It also has a lower negative impact on wild animals. Actually, none of the marine animal species has been declared eliminated due to fishing. Fish that are cultivated has the same impact as food that comes from land. However, this varies greatly on the sort of farmed seafood. Sea vegetables (such as kelp) are cultivated for farming, and farm bivalves such as mussels, clams and oysters are very valuable to the environment. These are usually grown right off the coast (demanding very slight or no fuel for boats) and need no freshwater. They could be grown horizontally, using only a small amount of ocean space, and, in fact, remove carbon from the earth when they develop. Bivalves and sea vegetables are grown for food and are among the most food available commercially for the planet, irrespective of whether they are animal or plant macro-nutrient characteristics.
Assessments of life cycles and scientific comparisons of food items
Life-cycle assessments (LCAs) are a scientifically verified way of determining food items’ environmental effects. LCA studies are a new kind of information that assesses how a food product affects the environment throughout its life. For instance, this part illustration from Hilborn and co. 2018 compares GHG emitting, electricity consumption, and pollution of the air (noted in the form of acid) as well as polluting water (reported as Eutrophication) from three species of protein from animals that include livestock (yellow) and aquaculture (red) as well as wild-caught fisheries (blue).
(Hilborn et al., 2018) Wild-caught fishing has the most negative impact on the ecology, according to the analysis. Perhaps the least destructive food to eat on the planet is farmed shellfish, but farmed catfish is equal to beef in terms of its environmental effect. LCAs are the most effective method for evaluating the effects of diverse food items.
Poore and Nemecek (2018) put out a huge collection of food LCAs that make it possible to compare food sources on a large scale; Hilborn et al. (2018) continued with a thorough analysis of the animal protein that Only a few weeks later, the species list included both those caught in the wild and those raised on fish farms. Look at our report at the end of this article for an in-depth analysis of both studies along with their findings.
The chart above by World Resources Institute does an excellent job of describing the environmental impact of our food choices (Although the graph excludes wild-caught fish). The conclusion is the fact that eating more fish in place of other food items made from animals is more beneficial for the environment. But not every seafood is created equal.
Numerous variables determine the long-term sustainability of a given fish species from a particular place when there are so many kinds. In coming, part of Seafood 101 explains the many facets of fisheries management and the science that affect the sustainability of individual seafood species.
Do you have to feel embarrassed about your diet’s negative impact on your health?
The majority of the ingredients that you ate last night were grown on a patch of land once an animal habitat. More than 50% of the arable land in the world is now cleared for agricultural use or livestock. Are you feeling guilt-free? The idea of trading wilderness to improve human well-being and nutritional health is a moral choice that our ancestors made to establish civilisation. You played nothing in the development of our food system in the world.
Although a diet shift away from animal products is one of the most accessible and most efficient steps you can take to save the planet, significant, massive changes and conservation actions can only be achieved through policy changes and pressure from the political arena. If you are a fan of beef, you can do more for the environment than if you are a non-fan of beef. Here, you may apply for the right to vote in the United States. You will find information on the United States of America on this page.