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Environmental assessments of fisheries

Sustainability assessments of fisheries are today done using a range of tools with different objective and scope. This project explored use of ecological risk assessment and life cycle assessment to progress towards ecosystem-based fisheries management and improved product-based evaluations.

Background and aim

Sustainability assessments of fisheries are today done using different tools with various scope and objectives. This affects their outcome. Products may be evaluated with one tool, whereas management uses others – whereas a prerequisite for sustainable products from capture fisheries is a management capable of addressing all conflicts with sustainability. Key drivers for change are implementation of ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM), increased attention to product-based assessments and the need to progress towards Agenda 2030 targets. 

The main purpose of this project was to investigate the potential of using and combining two tools for environmental systems analysis: i) ecological risk assessment (ERA), crucial in the implementation of EBFM in Australia, and ii) life cycle assessment (LCA), which has identified that management of fisheries has a major influence on environmental impacts of seafood products. Both tools have strengths and weaknesses and different uptake of results. The project has utilized case studies combining the tools and stand-alone assessments utilizing one of the tools to evaluate aspects of fisheries or management previously not studied. In paralell, broader sustainability assessments have been explored through literature review, modelling and collaboration with international expertise in Australia, including indicators for the human dimension (economic, social, institutional). 


The case studies showed that mixed messages may be sent from combined use of the tools and that sustainable seafood production from capture fisheries requires joint effort of management, industry and markets. Major emission reductions may be achieved in fisheries from management objectives allowing smaller trade-offs in yield. Current situation is related to the human dimension, where limited research has been done beyond fishing economy in an EBFM context. Since this broader information related to fisheries is also sought for by stakeholders, current research, sustainability reporting and management of fisheries is  insufficient. When compared across fisheries jurisdictions, this reporting and analysis is challenged by availability of public and standardized data. 

To this end, the project illustrated improvement potentials to current practice on how to i) decrease emissions in fisheries, ii) decrease ecological risks of Swedish fisheries; and iii) better conform with EBFM and societal needs through broader sustainability considerations. Important conclusions are that: 

  • Swedish fisheries management need to define operational management objectives to evaluate risks against and implement EBFM. 

  • Tools need to be developed jointly with research and management for a suitable format for utilizing participatory, risk-based tools in a Swedish management context. 

  • Sustainability reporting and research related to seafood from capture fisheries needs to broaden in scope.  

Scientific publications

Shaping sustainability of seafood from capture fisheries integrating the perspectives of supply chain stakeholders through combining systems analysis tools:

Perceptions regarding the need for broad sustainability assessments of Australian fisheries:

Ecosystem-based fisheries management requires broader performance indicators for the human dimension:

Carp (Cyprinidae) Fisheries in Swedish Lakes: A Combined Environmental Assessment Approach to Evaluate Data-limited Freshwater Fish Resources as Food:

Fisheries for the future: greenhouse gas emission consequences of different fishery reference points:

Challenges and insights from holistic sustainability reporting for shrimp fisheries in different jurisdictions:

Quantifying environmental impacts of cleaner fish used as sea lice treatments in salmon aquaculture with life cycle assessment:

Risk-based evaluation of the vulnerability of the Skagerrak–Kattegat marine fish community to Swedish fisheries:


Project name

ERA and LCA of fisheries



RISE role in project

Project leader

Project start


4 years

Total budget

3 982 320 SEK


Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Hobart, Tasmania, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS), University of Tasmania (UTAS), Hobart, Tasmania


Formas mobility grant

Supports the UN sustainability goals

2. Zero hunger
12. Responsible consumption and production
13. Climate action
14. Life below water
Sara Hornborg

Contact person

Sara Hornborg


+46 10 516 66 96

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