Researchers look to develop energy label

Boats in Fraserburgh Harbour.
Boats in Fraserburgh Harbour.

Researchers at Robert Gordon University are developing a new eco-label for fish which details the amount of energy involved in the catching and processing of products.

The project, which has used fish caught and processed in the Fraserburgh area as a case study, has found that catching and processing whitefish such as haddock uses up to three times more energy per tonne of fish caught than pelagic fish such as mackerel.

Part of a wider European research project called e-harbours, the team, which spanned two of RGU’s research institutes, undertook life cycle analysis and modelling of the amount of energy consumed at different stages of the fish production process, as well as an investigation of the design and use of eco-labels.

The study found that to catch and process a tonne of haddock used 2898.4KWh – more than the amount of electricity used by the average household in ten months – while catching and processing a tonne of mackerel used less than a third of that energy at 867.27KWh.

For each, the catching stage was more energy intensive than the processing.

Dr. Ebun Akinsete, of RGU’s Institute for Innovation, Design and Sustainability (IDEAS), led the energy life-cycle element of the research and explained the difference in the energy usage between the two types of fish.

She said: “While the total amount of energy used to catch a pelagic fish like mackerel is greater than that used to catch whitefish like haddock, the significantly greater tonnage of fish caught by pelagic vessels results in a considerably lower KWh/tonne figure.”

Dr Akinsete added: “Sustainability in the fishing industry tends to be associated with bio-ecological elements such as fish stock levels, and issues such as energy had not been considered until recently so this study is really breaking new ground.

“There is huge scope in this area for more research, which could help fishermen see where they can perhaps be more energy efficient throughout the catching process.”