Mapping the impacts of farmed Scottish salmon from a Life Cycle perspective



Newton R & Little DC (2018) Mapping the impacts of farmed Scottish salmon from a Life Cycle perspective. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 23 (5), pp. 1018-1029.

Purpose  The European Union relies on seafood imports to supply growing demand that European production has failed to meet. Politically motivated media reports have denigrated competing imports in favour of local production. While life cycle assessment (LCA) measures global impact of value chains, it often fails to contextualise them. Using LCA, this article takes farmed Scottish Atlantic salmon as a case study of “local” production to identify and map the contributions to global environmental impact.  Methods  Data on the Scottish salmon value chain were collected by structured survey from a large international feed mill, six farms and a major processor. Secondary data were collected from available literature on feed ingredients and background data from EcoInvent2.2. A mid-point CML2001 approach was adopted focussing on global warming potential (GWP), acidification potential (AP), eutrophication potential, ozone depletion potential, photo-chemical oxidation potential, consumptive water use and land use. Results were displayed as contribution analyses of materials and processes and mapped geographically using area plots.  Results and discussion  Far from being a “locally” produced commodity, nearly 50% of the feed ingredients were sourced from South America and less than 25% originated in the UK. It was found that over 90% of the impact to farm-gate was embodied in feed, apart from eutrophication potential which was high at the farm from direct nitrogenous emissions into the marine environment. The majority of impacts do not occur in Scotland, particularly for land and water use, which occur at a more geographically significant level than GWP or AP, which are more global or regional impacts, respectively. High GWP emissions from vegetable-based ingredients were related to soil management and energy intensive processes such as wet milling to produce gluten from wheat and maize, sunflower and rapeseed oil processing.  Conclusions  The results show that in an age of globalised commodity trading, concerns around “local” production are often misleading. As consumers try to make more responsible purchase choices, they may be misled over the global impacts their choices are having. There are clearly trade-offs between different feed ingredients, especially regarding substitution of marine ingredients with those of vegetable origin. While marine ingredients perform comparatively well, they are highly limited, and biodiversity impacts of different ingredients are less clear and difficult to compare.

Atlantic salmon; Impact mapping; LCA; Local production; Scotland

International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment: Volume 23, Issue 5

Publication date31/05/2018
Publication date online14/08/2017
Date accepted by journal02/08/2017

People (2)


Professor Dave Little

Professor Dave Little

Professor, Institute of Aquaculture

Dr Richard Newton

Dr Richard Newton

Lecturer in Resilient Food Systems, Institute of Aquaculture