How do farmed salmon affect CO2 emissions?

Salmon farming emits less CO2 than meat production.

A blue wellboat beside a fishcage
Salmon farming causes less CO2 emissions than meat production. Photo: Norwegian Seafood Council

In 2009, SINTEF Fiskeri og havbruk, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and Institutet för Livsmedel och Bioteknik (now SP Food and Bioscience) analyzed the carbon footprint of 22 Norwegian seafood products. A carbon footprint includes both direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production. The products were investigated all the way to the wholesaler.

According to the analysis, 1 kilogram of farmed salmon fillet that is eaten in Paris gives a CO2 equivalent (a unit used to compare CO2 emissions) of around 2.5. The carbon footprint for salmon farming is thus far lower than for cattle production, which emit 30 CO2 equivalents per kilogram. 1 kilogram of pork has a CO2 equivalent of around 5.9. Most of the CO2 emissions associated to salmon farming is related to the production of fish feed.

On behalf of the authorities, SINTEF has previously conducted life-cycle analyses of a number of different Norwegian seafood products.The reaults show that seafood based on the Norwegian aquaculture industry has significantly lower climate gas emissions than other meat production (such as chicken, pork and beef). The climate cost for Norwegian fisheries and aquaculture, including fuel, feed resources for the aquaculture industry, processing and transport to markets is estimated to equate to emissions of 9.3 million tons of CO2 equivalents. This is a high figure, but relates to the production of 3.1 million tons of seafood. According to SINTEF, if the equivalent amount of red meat were to be produced, the emissions would have been five times greater, i.e. 47  million tons of CO2 equivalents.

Useful links (in Norwegian only):

SINTEF Fiskeri og havbruks's report (2009): Carbon footprint and energy consumption of Norwegian seafood products

The future in our hands – fact sheet on greenhouse gas emissions (2013):

The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture (FHF) research fund (2008): Pre-project environmental audit: on climate-friendly eating: