Aquaculture Working Group on Environmental Footprint

World population and consumption is growing, resulting in increased pressure on the natural environment. Aquaculture can provide healthy, high-quality food with limited environmental impact, creating jobs and prosperity, if done sustainably.

Currently we lack data on the environmental footprint of aquaculture of the whole value chain, especially on aquafeed. It is imperative that we understand the footprint of aquaculture products in terms of carbon footprint, water use, water quality, biodiversity, antibiotic use, and plastic use.

Producers that are currently performing well environmentally are currently not rewarded for doing so. The environmental impact between aquaculture species; culture systems; and geographical regions differ considerably. Given the vast diversity of the sector, it is better to have individual investigations instead of relying on averages for the industry that might not represent individual producers.

If we better measure, we can distinguish products and producers that have a low environmental footprint from products and producers that have a higher environmental footprint. By better measuring, we can also identify hotspots along the supply chain where the negative environmental impacts are highest, and we can start improving the environmental footprint of aquaculture where needed.

Coalition of the Willing

IDH created and facilitates a pre-competitive Aquaculture Working Group, consisting of companies that can prioritize issues, start projects, create metrics and a methodology, and can learn together. The aim of the group is to better measure and reduce the environmental footprint of Aquaculture. By working together, companies can co-develop, test, and scale solutions that they could not achieve on their own. With the added benefit the results will be comparable, with other supply chains, aquaculture products, and proteins.

Certification and Rating

Certification, rating, and other initiatives cover parts of the answer but there is nothing yet that can provide a complete solution. There is a need for a collaborative group consisting of organizations with a shared interest in better understanding the environmental footprint of aquaculture and working on reducing it.

As part of the working group, IDH is collaborating with ISEAL and certification schemes and rating programs to align on GHG methodology so that different GHG methodologies are comparable.

Where are we now?

The Working Group has now been active for more than one year and is comprised of 10 active, forward-thinking Partners. Many of these partners have completed the initial pilots where data was collected throughout their supply chains and an environmental footprint was calculated for carbon, water use, and nitrogen and phosphorus use. Some of these findings and lessons on this process were shared by Partners at the Seafood Expo Global in Barcelona in April 2022.

Now that these pilots have been conducted for a small number of farming systems and supply chains and it is understood what data is required, work is now being undertaken to produce product baselines that represent products at retail being sourced from multiple farms – for example, 1kg of tilapia fillet from Indonesia at retail in the United Kingdom.

Concurrently, an Excel-based tool is being developed which will allow this process to become more streamlined, so that data collection and results calculations can be conducted internally by the Working Group Partners.

Simultaneously, collaborative projects are being set up that will inform the group how to best reduce the product environmental footprint.

Work with certification and ratings schemes on alignment of GHG methodology is still ongoing through an ISEAL lead group. Continuously alignment is being sought with other initiatives so that the methodology produced is harmonized.

Our Partners

Companies joining the Working Group