Domestic or Imported? An Assessment of Carbon Footprints and Sustainability of Seafood Consumed in Australia

A. K. Farmery, B. G. Green, S. Jennings, R. A. Watson, C. Gardner, 2015. Environmental Science & Policy, 54: 35-43

imports, seafood trade, supply chain, life cycle assessment, food miles, sustainable seafood, Australia


The distance between where food is produced and consumed is increasing, and is often taken as evidence of an unsustainable global food system. Seafood is a highly traded commodity yet seafood sustainability assessments do not typically consider the impacts of the movement of products beyond the fishery or farm. Here we use life cycle assessment to examine the carbon footprint of the production and distribution of select seafood products that are consumed in Australia and determine differences in the sustainability of imports and their domestically produced counterparts. We found that the distance food is transported is not the main determinant of food sustainability. Despite the increased distance between production and consumption, carbon footprints of meals from imported seafood are similar to meals consisting of domestically produced seafood, and sometimes lower, depending on the seafood consumed. In combining LCA with existing seafood sustainability criteria the trade-offs between sustainability targets become more apparent. Carbon ‘footprinting’ is one metric that can be incorporated into in assessments of sustainability, thereby demonstrating a broader perspective of the environmental cost of food production and consumption.