New Study Measures Nations’ ‘SeafoodPrint’ - Oceana USA
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September 22, 2010

New Study Measures Nations’ ‘SeafoodPrint’

You knew the U.S. had a massive carbon footprint, but did you know we also have the world’s third largest “SeafoodPrint?”

That’s according to a study published today in National Geographic led by Oceana board member and fisheries expert Dr. Daniel Pauly and National Geographic fellow Enric Sala.

How do you measure the “SeafoodPrint” of a country, you ask? By factoring in the type of fish and the total amount hauled in. The researchers used a unit of measurement based on “primary production,” the microscopic organisms at the bottom of the marine food web that are required to make a pound of a given type of fish.

China comes in at the number one spot because of its sheer population size, while Peru is ranked second because its anchoveta becomes fish meal for farm-raised pigs, chickens and fish (such as salmon) around the world, even though Peruvians themselves don’t consume a lot of fish. Meanwhile, the U.S. is ranked third because of the type of fish we generally prefer — top-of-the-food-chain fish, such as tuna and salmon.

As Dr. Pauly told the Washington Post, “A pound of tuna represents roughly a hundred times the footprint of a pound of sardines.”

Anchovies and other small, or “forage” fish represent a third of the world’s total seafood catch, and would represent a “major reserve of seafood” if we stopped feeding it to our livestock, Pauly argues.

So what’s the next step in reducing our global SeafoodPrint? Dr. Pauly and Sala say that a global treaty with seafood-consumption targets would be a good start. Their next project will examine what goals such a treaty should include.

What about individual SeafoodPrints? How would yours stack up?