Chapter 13.2.2 Fisheries and marine wildlife

Recover fish stock to sustainable levels

Recover fish stocks to the point at which they can provide maximum sustainable yield to provide a low-emission protein source.

UK Govt
Scottish Govt
Local Authorities
Emissions reduction
Behaviour change

The marine area is currently less productive than it has historically been. Seafood can be a protein source with a very low carbon footprint. Recovering the sea would allow greater provision of low-carbon protein and enhance climate-friendly diets.

Most forms of seafood provide low-carbon forms of protein, some perform even better than pulses. That said, intense fuel use means that seafood products caught in dredge and trawl fisheries do not do so well – notably trawled Nephrops perform less well than even beef.

Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) represents the maximum amount of each fish stock that can be caught each year without negatively impacting on future years. Under the Common Fisheries Policy, Fisheries Strategy and National Marine Plan, the Scottish Government had an obligation to manage all its fisheries in line with this concept by 2020. Sadly, the UK (and the rest of EU) missed this target badly, with many stocks yet to be even properly assessed. However, this does not mean the target should be forgotten and certainly, as other sources of protein, especially red meat, are coming under increased scrutiny, seafood will become a more important part of a healthy and climate-friendly diet. The Scottish Government should aim to rebuild stocks to the point at which they are delivering the highest yield, thus contributing to the decarbonisation of our food industries and diets.

Because MSY does not take account of broader environmental sustainability (monocultures can deliver maximum yield but at great cost to the ecosystem), this target should be subject to an additional caveat of seeking the highest yield with the least environmental impact.

For further information:

Version 1.0: September 2023

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