FUELING THE FLEETS

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(POSTED 3/3/06)

Just how much oil does the fishing industry consume?

According to a recent study, the world’s commercial fishing fleets collective burn as much fuel in a year as the entire country of the Netherlands – some 50 billion liters, or 13.2 billion gallons, of diesel and gasoline. Netherlands is ranked 18th among the world’s nations in terms of its consumption of fossil fuels.

The authors of the study – Peter Tyedmers of Dalhousie University, and Reg Watson and Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia – note that the commercial catch amounted to 80.4 million metric tons in 2000. Converting all the fuel to diesel in order to arrive at an approximate ration of weight of fish caught per weight of fuel used, the authors calculate that “global fisheries landed approximately 1.9 tonnes of fish and invertebrates for each tonne of fuel consumed directly in their capture.”

The volume of fuel used by the world’s fleets represented 1.2 percent of total global oil consumption, the authors report, and it accounted for the release of “approximately 134 million tones of CO2 into the atmosphere at an average rate of 1.7 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of live-weight landed product.”

If the figures are in error, they probably are on the low side, the authors say, since they don’t include freshwater fisheries or illegal, unreported, or unregulated fisheries.

“From an efficiency perspective,” the authors write, “the energy content of the fuel burned by global fisheries is 12.5 times greater than the edible protein energy content of the resulting catch.”

(The study, “Fueling Global Fishing Fleets,” appears in Ambio: A Journal of the Human Environment, 34(8):59-62.)

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