Norwegian fleet on mackerel in the north and blue whiting to the west in the Norwegian Sea eu norway clash mackerel claim Brexit Increased Norwegian Mackerel Fleet’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Brexit effectively doubled the greenhouse gas emissions of the Norwegian mackerel fleet, according to a new study. Photo Vea A/S

Brexit effectively doubled the carbon footprint of the Norwegian mackerel fleet, according to a new study.

The expulsion of Norwegian boats from British waters forced them to fish in less efficient areas, leading to an unexpected surge in greenhouse gas emissions, as revealed by a study published today in Marine Policy, conducted by the University of Bergen (UIB), Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE), and Fiskebåt.

Postdoctoral researcher Kim Scherrer and her team shed light on how the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union (Brexit) resulted in increased greenhouse gas emissions from Norwegian mackerel fishing.


Unforeseen Consequences

The study, done in collaboration with Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE) and Fiskebåt, highlights the unforeseen consequences of political changes on fishing fleets and their carbon footprint.

In the North Atlantic, international agreements often allow fleets to follow fish across national borders, enabling fishermen to catch fish where it is most efficient. However, Brexit abruptly excluded Norwegian mackerel fishing from British waters. Treating Brexit as a natural experiment, the researchers used open fishing data to uncover the consequences. The results reveal a concerning shift in fishery performance and carbon emissions.

When Norwegian vessels were barred from British fishing areas, they were compelled to fish in less efficient regions, leading to an almost halving of the catch per fishing trip. Additionally, this resulted in a doubling of the number of trips per vessel and a twofold increase in fuel consumption per kilogram of mackerel caught.

72,000 Extra Tonnes of CO2

Brexit necessitated an additional 23 million litres of fuel each year, with a price tag of approximately 200 million NOK, along with emitting an extra 72,000 tonnes of CO2 into the air annually. These changes have nullified about 15 years of progress in fuel efficiency in Norway’s pelagic fisheries.

“This slight change in fishing regulations unintentionally caused as much emissions as 750,000 round-trip flights between Oslo and Bergen annually. Governments that have signed the Paris Agreement should avoid wasting emissions in this manner,” emphasises Scherrer, stressing the need to consider emissions in fisheries management.

The study urges policymakers and leaders to factor in fuel efficiency considerations when managing territorial marine areas. This is essential to strike a balance between conservation efforts, other offshore industries, and reducing carbon footprints.

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