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Is seafood a more climate-friendly option than meat?

Photo illustration of a set of scales with a pig on one side and a fish on the other.

Illustration: Elena Scotti (Photo: PixelSquid)

Welcome to the Burning Questions series, in which Countryman answers the most common questions about how to tackle climate change. Many people want to do anything, anything, to help cope with the climate crisis. We answer your questions about how to help change your life – and the systems that will save us. Check out our past Actual questions here

The impact of animal husbandry on the planet … is small! Globally, animal husbandry is responsible for almost 15% greenhouse gas pollution… In the USA, some cows make up 27% of methane emissions

Chicken and pork are also environmental nightmares. While each industry emits fewer greenhouse gases than beef, both industries require production a cloud of soybeans (more than a third of the world’s soybeans go to poultry and about a fifth goes to pigs), leading to deforestation in places like the Amazon.

The climatic and environmental damage from animal husbandry has led some people to turn to veganism. What about seafood? If you’re not ready to skip meat altogether, is it possible (or at least better) to eat salmon? What about shrimp? We know hot girls love sardines, but does eating them make the planet hotter? The answers are complex.

Climatically reasonable, wild caught better … Usually

In terms of emissions, seafood is a better choice than other meats.

“Seafood, on average, has a lower carbon footprint than other animal proteins because fishing does not require farmland or livestock care,” said Anna Baxter, communications specialist for ocean conservation organization Oceana, citing 2012 study

There are even a few basic rules you can follow to keep your fish lunch to a minimum. Usually best caught in the wild. Smaller species such as anchovies, herring and sardines. usually best options because they are lower in the food chain and less likely to be overexploited. Shellfish such as oysters, mussels, and scallops. are usually relatively climate friendly options because they can filter food from water instead of requiring feed. There are guides, for example Watching seafood at Monterey Bay Aquariumwhich can help you make more informed choices.

But still, things can get complicated.

“Unlike cattle, fish are not ruminants that release methane when they burp and fart,” said Jan Dutkiewicz, Research Fellow at Concordia University and Visiting Research Fellow at Harvard’s Animal Law and Policy Program. “And unlike, say, chicken, they are not produced in polluted environments like[[[[concentrated animal feeding operations]with high emissions. … But there are other problems as well. “

Farming fish has a greater impact on the climate than fishing for wild seafood. In 2017, the fish farming sector accounted for half a percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, roughly the same as in the Netherlands.

While many species of wild-caught seafood are more climate-sensitive, this is not the case for everyone. Crustaceans love shrimp and lobster are associated with some of the highest carbon emissions because the trawl boats used to catch and reel them must constantly stop and start setting and collecting traps, using a lot of fuel. A Research 2018 in the journal Nature Climate Change found that fishing for lobster and shrimp can produce more emissions than poultry and pork. Another reportreleased this year found that bottom trawlers emit a gigaton of carbon dioxide every year, which is on par with the entire aviation industry.

There are also many non-climate impacts. Bottom trawling can destroy the fragile ecosystems of the seabed, and fishing gear is a major source of plastic pollution in the ocean. This poses a serious hazard to all types of marine species, including top predators such as sharks… Overfishing is also a major concern, as the United Nations warns that a third of the world’s fisheries are being used at an unacceptable rate. Fish farms are also sources of pollution and a disease that can affect wild species

How do we fix seafood?

Swapping a hamburger for a salmon burger is one step towards reducing your diet’s carbon footprint. But this can’t be the only step

An April report found that the United States fisheries managers fail in their responsibilities to prevent overfishing and ensure compliance with annual catch limits. NSencouraging legislators to take more oversight to ensure compliance with laws will be a serious systemic action… But politics can also be improved, especially if the climate changes are putting more pressure on fisheries. A bill introduced this summer will improve existing policies to protect more animals and better accommodate climate change.

Fishing is also a world trade… Last year, the World Trade Organization was unable to agree on how to cut subsidies to unsustainable fish farms that have helped destroy the world’s fish stocks. Joining wargroups for the strong agreement next year – another opportunity to start tipping the scales even more

Francis Whitrow, A marine scientist from Oceana wrote in an email that the group is also campaigning to freeze bottom trawling and make fishing gear more resilient to reduce by-catch. This is another way to ensure that others who choose to eat seafood better options

But by and large, science shows that v most sustainable protein options not at all of animal origin; these are plant proteins such as beans and lentils. So another way to reduce the environmental impact of seafood is to shrink the entire sector by expanding more environmentally friendly alternatives. Governments around the world spend tens of billions annually on the fisheries economy, and these incentives can encourage overfishing and moreexploitation

“There are very strong arguments in favor of the fact that if people who grow fresh, healthy vegetables, beans, and instead, the same kind of support was given to pulses … to develop better varieties, new varieties, or just produce on a larger scale, we could reduce costs and encourage people to eat them, ”Dutkevich said.

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