Invited Speaker to OECD, COFI, Paris, 21st of November 2023, presenting "The potential of different fisheries’ emissions reduction strategies - How can smart policies reduce the GHG emissions from fishing?"

Activity: Talks and presentationsTalks and presentations in private or public companies and organisations


The potential of different fisheries’ emissions
reduction strategies - How can smart policies reduce the GHG emission from fishing?

Smart policies should combine solutions to face the challenge of reducing fuel use and document obstacles in practice to reducing the sector's carbon footprint.

One aspect of a smart policy would be to encourage the adoption of measures that promote greater energy efficiency. This is beneficial to individual fishing businesses because it helps to reduce costs. Examples of such measures include implementing gear modifications and practising "precision fishing" to improve catch rates while making sure to minimise any negative effects on the environment.

A smart policy should also encourage the use of "best available fishing techniques", which are the techniques requiring the least amount of energy compared to others. However, special care should be taken to inform the necessary payback time after retrofitting vessels or changing practices. Additionally, we must also consider the ecological feasibility changing of target assemblage of species and fishing areas visited, and other practical issues that may arise, such as increased bycatch of sensitive species and changes in what is being delivered to the seafood market.

On the longer-term investment, a smart policy would be to adopt clean technologies, such as changing fuel types for powering vessels, electrifying the fleet, retrofitting vessels, and more. When it comes to decarbonising fisheries, we must consider that economic development tends to be locked in a certain path (see the path dependency theory), which can make it very challenging to adopt better techniques without some assistance. Redirecting current subsidies to fossil fuel toward the development of clean technologies can help to overcome this challenge and ensure that the most effective techniques are adopted, even if they come with some upfront or increased costs. In this perspective, and besides public fundings and energy taxation, there is a significant requirement for the shipping sector to provide extensive support to the smaller fishing sector regarding capability, research and development, and technical aid to construct new infrastructure around clean energy that should flow to vessels in harbours. This support should also include adopting innovative naval architecture and adapting educational schemes for marine engineers and seafarers.

Finally, a prerequisite of a successful solution is to ensure sustainable and responsible fishing practices, with an appropriate balance of fleet capacity and fishing opportunities in an ecosystem approach to fisheries. This is because healthy fish stocks and supportive productive marine habitats will make it easier to catch fish while also reducing fuel consumption, resulting in several additional co-benefits. One of the benefits of pursuing alternative energy sources is that it makes us more resilient to economic downturns, reduces our dependence on fossil fuels, and helps us mitigate the crisis faced by marine biodiversity (mismatch induced by a change in environmental conditions, invasive species, etc.). Additionally, by phasing out certain harmful practices like bottom trawling, we can limit the impact on blue carbon habitats and reduce the loss of carbon storage in sediments.

As a final remark, it should be recalled that fisheries management should monitor the fuel use reduction closely as promoting more energy efficiency policies can have pitfalls, such as increasing opportunities for more catches beyond the renewal capability of the harvested resources while lowering fuel expenses. If such unwished effects would not happen wherever sustainable catch limits are fixed by the regulator, increasing energy efficiency may have negative consequences when only input control management such as fishing effort limits is in place, being the primary rule in some regions (e.g., the Med). Therefore, reducing the payback time of innovations through increased energy efficiency should not result in further degradation of marine habitats and stocks. The "rebound effect" must also be controlled to avoid redirecting the fuel savings toward more fishing capacity.
Period21 Nov 2023
Held atOECD, France


  • Decarbonisation
  • Sustainable fishing
  • Co-benefits
  • Best available techniques
  • Ecosystem approach