Chapter 13.2.2 Fisheries and marine wildlife

Establish sustainable fisheries objectives

Establish low emission and sustainable fisheries objectives in fishery legislation and report on annual fisheries emissions.

UK Govt
Scottish Govt
Local Authorities
Emissions reduction
Behaviour change

The Scottish Government should develop and adopt climate-determined fishery regulation, to include emissions as a criterion in allocation of fishing opportunity, establish licence conditions on the basis of emissions and mandate annual emissions reporting requirements.

Global annual emissions from fuel use alone in fisheries is estimated to be 179MtCO2e.306 ‘Heavier’ forms of fishing which catch fish and shellfish by towing bottom trawls or dredges (as opposed to placing static traps on the seabed) produce disproportionately higher emissions.

Emissions reductions can be achieved in several ways. Firstly, by recovering fish stocks so that catch per unit effort increases. Secondly, by switching from fuel-inefficient to fuel-efficient forms of fishing (i.e. mobile to static gear). For instance, the fuel needed to catch and land a kilogram of Nephrops can be reduced from 9 litres to 2.2 litres by switching from trawl to creel gear. Numerous other approaches exist including replacement of diesel fuel with electric power, improved hull design and limits on vessel speed. In addition the current licensing system encourages the use of fuel-inefficient, short, wide boats. If updated to focus less on length there could be significant energy and emissions reductions.307

There is also evidence that depletion of marine finfish stocks may be disrupting the functioning of the marine carbon cycle, with the removal of the biological pump mechanism: it is estimated that around 18% of marine carbon fluxes, even with greatly reduced fish abundance, are driven by vertical diurnal migrations of fishes and other marine organisms.308

For further information:


Fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions of world fisheries 2018 Robert W. R. Parker , Julia L. Blanchard, Caleb Gardner, Bridget S. Green, Klaas Hartmann, Peter H. Tyedmers. Watson Nature Climate Change Vol 8.


Electrifying The Fleet – more sustainable propulsion options for the small-scale fishing fleet, University of Hull, 2022,


Quantifying carbon fluxes from primary production to mesopelagic fish using a simple food web model; Thomas R Anderson, Adrian P Martin, Richard S Lampitt, Clive N Trueman, Stephanie A Henson, Daniel J Mayor ICES Journal of Marine Science, Volume 76, Issue 3, May- June 2019, Pages 690–701,

Version 1.0: September 2023

The contents of this document will be updated on a regular basis.