Comparing Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Salmonid Aquaculture Production Systems: Status and Perspectives
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionSustainability. 2019, 11 (9), . https://doi.org/10.3390/su11092517
Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector worldwide, mostly driven by a steadily increasing protein demand. In response to growing ecological concerns, life cycle assessment (LCA) emerged as a key environmental tool to measure the impacts of various production systems, including aquaculture. In this review, we focused on farmed salmonids to perform an in-depth analysis, investigating methodologies and comparing results of LCA studies of this ﬁnﬁsh family in relation to species and production technologies. Identifying the environmental strengths and weaknesses of salmonid production technologies is central to ensure that industrial actors and policymakers make informed choices to take the production of this important marine livestock to a more sustainable path. Three critical aspects of salmonid LCAs were studied based on 24 articles and reports: (1) Methodological application, (2) construction of inventories, and (3) comparison of production technologies across studies. Our ﬁrst assessment provides an overview and compares important methodological choices. The second analysis maps the main foreground and background data sources, as well as the state of process inclusion and exclusion. In the third section, a ﬁrst attempt to compare life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) and feed conversion ratio (FCR) data across production technologies was conducted using a single factor statistical protocol. Overall, ﬁndings suggested a lack of methodological completeness and reporting in the literature and demonstrated that inventories suﬀered from incomplete description and partial disclosure. Our attempt to compare LCA results across studies was challenging due to confounding factors and poor data availability, but useful as a ﬁrst step in highlighting the importance of production technology for salmonids. In groups where the data was robust enough for statistical comparison, both diﬀerences and mean equalities were identiﬁed, allowing ranking of technology clusters based on their average scores. We statistically demonstrated that sea-based systems outperform land-based technology in terms of energy demand and that sea-based systems have a generally higher FCR than land-based ones. Cross-study analytics also strongly suggest that open systems generate on average more eutrophying emissions than closed designs. We further discuss how to overcome bottlenecks currently hampering such LCA meta-analysis. Arguments are made in favor of further developing cross-study LCA analysis, particularly by increasing the number of salmonid LCA available (to improve sample sizes) and by reforming in-depth LCA practices to enable full reproducibility and greater access to inventory data.