Press Club Brussels Europe 1st February – As the European Commission prepares to publish a strategy to accelerate the energy transition in the EU fisheries sector, a new report published today by Oceana looks into solutions to reduce fuel use to support this transition. The report finds that there are several potential paths to achieve the EU’s ambition of reducing the fishing sector’s contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30% by 2030 and of becoming climate neutral by 2050.
Alexandra Cousteau, Oceana senior advisor, said: “It is the responsibility of all sectors, including the fishing industry, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Oceana´s report shows how adopting specific technical measures and management approaches would make it feasible for the EU fishing fleet to help achieve the EU’s environmental goals and deadlines to mitigate climate change. Reaching these objectives is now a matter of will.”
The report reveals that mobile bottom-contacting fisheries (such as bottom trawlers) are the most fuel-intensive fishing techniques in the EU (in terms of litres of fuel used per kilo of landed fish). This high fuel dependency is largely due to bottom trawlers requiring particularly large quantities of fuel and powerful engines to drag their gear through the seabed. Bottom-contacting gears also release large amounts of carbon stored in the seabed into the water, possibly as much as 10 to 15 times the amount of carbon released through fuel burnt during fishing activities, according to the report. It goes on to say that while fishing tends to be considered a low-carbon source of food, the most fuel-intensive and least energy-efficient fishing techniques available, such as bottom trawling, could result in emissions comparable to those of land-based animal protein production.
Phasing out the most energy intensive and destructive fisheries, and replacing them with more passive fishing techniques, offers multiple win-wins for the environment, the economy and society. These include contributing to reducing global GHG emissions through reduced fuel use, increased benefits from catching higher value fish with less fuel and lower operational costs, and protected carbon stores.
Vera Coelho, senior director of advocacy at Oceana in Europe, said: “The EU needs to better reconcile environmental and economic priorities in fisheries management and stop viewing one as opposing the other. Decision-makers must start by decoupling the fishing industry from its heavy reliance on fossil fuels and aid its transition to low-carbon alternatives, which will also help it economically. Climate inaction has a higher environmental and economic cost than a transition to a net zero carbon future.“
Energy needs in fishing are primarily associated with powering the vessel, towing the gear, and producing ice to conserve the catch during fishing activities. Despite some barriers to innovation, the report identifies short and long-term solutions for reducing emissions in the EU fisheries sector and meeting EU climate targets. These include the uptake of existing technologies (such as vessel and gear optimization) to make fishing techniques and activities less fuel-intensive, incentivising the use of alternative gears to partially replace the most energy-intensive fishing gears, and implementing a full ban on the most detrimental fisheries in marine areas where blue carbon habitats are known to occur.
The report’s findings serve to feed into the European Commission’s upcoming strategy to promote the EU fisheries sector’s energy transition, in the context of the EU’s efforts to make its climate, energy, transport and taxation policies fit for reducing net GHG emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. In the fishing sector, this translates to a reduction of 30% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.
Oceana report: A pathway to decarbonise the EU fisheries sector by 2050