Estimating carbon and plastic emissions of seafood products in trade routes between the European Union and South America

Joan Sanchez-Matos, Ian Vázquez-Rowe, Ramzy Kahhat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


International trade in fishery and aquaculture products is an important means of providing feed and food for different countries around the world. However, it is also responsible for multiple environmental impacts, namely climate change, as well as novel environmental aspects, such as plastic emissions, through its entire life cycle. In fact, plastic emissions are gaining increasing attention due to their presence in a variety of environmental compartments, especially in marine ecosystems. Hence, this study estimated the carbon footprint and the plastic emissions into the oceans from fishing and aquaculture trade between the European Union (EU) and South America (SA), based on a life cycle perspective. The results reveal that there is an imbalance both in terms of mass and carbon emissions between the import and export flows. SA exports eight-fold more aquaculture and fishing products (877,000 t) than those it imports (112,000 t), emitting twelve-fold more greenhouse gasses (2.9 million metric tons CO2eq.) than the EU (242,000 t CO2eq.), demonstrating the existence of seafood trade imbalances between the two regions. The entire trading releases into the ocean at least 263 t of macroplastic, and 45 t of microplastics from the fishing phase. This suggests the importance of the environmental impacts of the trade flows of aquaculture and fishing products, and the urgent need to decrease carbon emissions and provide more sustainable alternatives to plastic materials in fishing gear.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107539
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
StatePublished - Jun 2024


  • Climate change
  • Industrial ecology
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Material flow analysis
  • Plastic waste
  • Seafood


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