Climate change and the seafood industry

Climate change is a major challenge facing us all, and we're working to support the seafood industry response.

Explaining climate change mitigation and adaptation

Climate change is already resulting in warmer temperatures and extreme weather patterns. Continued emissions levels by maintaining ‘business as usual’ will intensify climate change and may lead to further impacts. Addressing climate change will need action by government, industry and wider society.

Since the 2008 Climate Change Act, the UK has acted to:

  • Reduce our contribution to climate change – this is also known as climate change mitigation.
  • Prepare for climate change impacts – this is also known as climate change adaptation.

There are regulations in place which relate to climate change mitigation and adaptation. These regulations include a UK commitment to net-zero by 2050 (Scotland by 2045). The UK Fisheries Act 2020 contains a specific objective to minimise the impacts of fish and aquaculture on the climate and ensure fish and aquaculture activities adapt to climate change.

The good news is that seafood already has a lower carbon footprint than many other sources of protein. This makes it a climate smart food which can help meet the needs of a growing world population. However the seafood industry will need to make further changes to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Why climate change is relevant to seafood

We’ve created a short film which outlines how climate change will impact the seafood industry. You can watch the film by clicking the play icon on the image below.

How businesses will need to respond for mitigation and adaptation

Like other industries, the seafood sector is feeling the impacts of climate change and businesses will continue be impacted in years to come. This will affect what they catch, harvest and produce and who they sell it to. If seafood businesses fail to adapt to the expected impacts of climate change, this could cause challenges across the seafood supply chain.

There is scope to reduce emissions throughout seafood supply chains, in fishing and farmed seafood production, trading and processing. Although seafood already has relatively low emissions, there is scope to further reduce seafood carbon footprints. For example, exploring hybrid fuel technology on vessels or using lower weight gear, traders could opt for sea rather than air freight transportation, and processors could explore on site renewable energy sources e.g. wind turbines and solar panels.

Longer term, reducing seafood related greenhouse gas emissions to meet net-zero targets could mean major changes in the supply chain. For example:

  • Preserving blue carbon stores could affect the catching sector – vessels may be excluded from certain areas, some fisheries may see closures to allow marine recovery, or fishing may be restricted to certain gear types.
  • Reducing transport emissions could affect UK seafood trade – air freighting high value seafood, since we import most of the seafood we eat and export most of what we catch.
  • Access to customers or raising capital may be more challenging without carbon credentials – supply chain inefficiencies may tarnish reputation of manufacturers and brand owners.

Further information on the importance of climate change mitigation and adaptation and how they will affect the seafood industry is available in the blogs linked below:

A selection of photos from case studies - hybrid vessel, breaded fish processing, super frozen tuna and fishing gear

How seafood businesses are already responding to climate change

While there is still much work to do, positive action is already being taken across the seafood supply chain. This includes making innovations in vessel and gear design, funding research into carbon emissions, finding less energy intensive ways to keep products fresh and investing in sea defences.

We’ve collated a series of case studies to share examples of how UK seafood businesses are responding to climate change. You can read more about action already being undertaken from the links below:

What should my business do now?

Sign up for news updates

Our new quarterly climate change e-alert brings together news and updates on climate change that’s relevant to the seafood industry. To sign up for updates follow the link below, then fill in the online form and check the box for ‘Seafood and Climate Change’.

Read more about greenhouse gas emissions

We’ve worked with industry and other partners to gain a better understanding of greenhouse gas emissions in seafood. This includes identifying hotspots in key seafood systems in order to guide future industry action. Further information on these projects is available from the link below:

Calculate seafood emissions for your business

Our Seafood emissions profiling tool enables businesses to gain a better understanding of their supply chain carbon emissions, as well as identify priority areas (‘carbon hotspots’) to mitigate the associated emissions of their products. The tool is under redevelopment, to provide industry with a user-friendly ‘one-stop shop’ platform, to additionally include seafood from aquaculture supply chains. You can find out more and access the tool from the link below:

Read more about climate change adaptation and impacts

We produce climate change adaptation reports and keep a watching brief on how climate change may impact on UK seafood supply chains. Further information on this is available from the link below:

Get in touch

If you have any queries about our climate change work please contact climate@seafish.co.uk.