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Greener than green? Fuel use efficiency in pole-and-line tuna

The latest report in IPNLF’s Technical Series evaluates fuel use intensity in the Maldivian pole-and-line tuna fishery and determines them to be ‘fuel efficient’

In the broader environmental sustainability realm, climate change is one of the biggest issues of our time. Accordingly, fossil fuel use is increasingly scrutinised and taken into account in comprehensive evaluations of fisheries’ environmental impact. Alongside information on stock health, bycatch and interactions with marine habitat, stakeholders want to understand the carbon footprint of fisheries and seafood products.

Fuel use intensity (FUI), or the amount of fuel used to catch a metric ton of fish, gives a first impression of the carbon footprint of fishery products. Previous studies have estimated that marine capture fisheries used over 42 million tonnes of fuel, releasing around 134 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In spite of these big numbers, analysis of the fuel of specific fisheries is limited, with notable data deficiencies for small-scale fisheries and those in less developed countries. 

In order to better understand the level of fuel use associated with one-by-one tuna fisheries, IPNLF commissioned a study to quantify fuel use in the Maldivian pole-and-line tuna fishery. Evidence was compiled from three separate sources: observer records (collected through the IPNLF Fisheries Observer initiative), government records and private processing company records.

The study estimates that FUI for Maldivian pole-and-line caught tuna was between 197-328 litres per metric ton of fish caught. This is approximately 40% of the average FUI for global fishing fleets and slightly lower than data previously reported for purse-seine-caught tuna. The report concludes that the Maldivian pole-and-line tuna fishery can be considered to be relatively fuel efficient compared to other fisheries. Other research points to tuna production as a relatively low carbon emitting process, particularly when compared to terrestrial forms of meat production. So, for environmentally conscious consumers, this, in combination with low levels of bycatch and minimal impacts on the marine environment, is further evidence of the low environmental impacts of these fisheries and another reason to select pole-and-line caught tuna products.

“I am pleased that the fuel use intensity estimates in the Maldives are now better understood. We are proud of our pole-and-line tuna fishery, one the cleanest and greenest fishing methods with minimal impacts on the environment. As a low-lying coastal state, the Maldives is already experiencing the detrimental impacts of climate change. As such, we are taking an aggressive approach to reducing our carbon footprint through our commitment to one-by-one tuna fisheries. We are continually trialling new technology aimed at making our fisheries even more efficient and sustainable through initiatives such as the Concept Vessel Project where we are experimenting with bird radars and on board fish refrigeration systems.” Dr Mohamed Shainee, Minister, Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, Maldives.