Life Cycle Assessments – What is LCA?

Patrik Henriksson is completing his PHD at¬†Leiden University¬†within the SEAT project. Patrik’s PHD involves using Life Cycle Assessments to investigate the production and distribution of the different species and countries within SEAT.

Below, Patrik explains what LCAs are and how he is using them be to highlight unsustainable “hot spots” along the value chain for the different SEAT species:

“While somewhat confusing for biologists, life cycle assessment (LCA) focuses on the lifecycle of products, rather than organisms. In aquaculture, the two have in common that they both include the hatchery phase, the grow-out phase, and the mortality/processing phase. However, for aquatic products, the cradle starts long before the hatchery (in e.g. a phosphorus mine in Morocco), and its grave may lay in the garbage disposal of a European consumer. The efforts of WP3 over the last year has thus been to evaluate processes not commonly associated with aquaculture. In the process of doing so, we have encountered many discrepancies in data, and also many interesting divergences in practices. In order to entail these dispersions in our final results, much effort has been put towards developing a protocol for approaching and averaging inventory data. The protocol has, in itself, resulted in an article which currently is under review, and the daily implementation of it in our SEAT work has helped us refine the methodology. We have also managed to produce our first preliminary LCA results, including estimates for dispersion, and are currently busy improving these.”

In order to communicate our results and give improvement options, I have also spent the last month visiting industry partners in Asia, with very positive reactions and feedback. This highlights the active process of doing LCAs, where assumptions can be improved, and alternatives for hot-spots discussed. A reality for many LCA practitioners is that most impacts often boil down to a handful of processes in the production chain. In our preliminary results, local capture fisheries supplying fishmeal producers have proven to be one such hot-spot, where diesel often is converted into fish on the terms of weight. Such poor preforming systems are often a sign overexploitation, where poor practices sometimes only are maintained due to subsidies. In our final outcomes, we will try and identify more of these hot-spots, and provide remedies, in order to improve the performance and hopefully also the reputation of farmed Asian aquatic products.”

Photo © Loni Hensler