Research Article

The Prospects of Analysing the Environmental Impacts of Egyptian Aquaculture Using Life Cycle Assessment  

N.F. Soliman , D.M.M. Yacout
Department of Environmental Studies, Institute of Graduate Studies and Research, University of Alexandria, Alexandria, Egypt
Author    Correspondence author
International Journal of Aquaculture, 2015, Vol. 5, No. 40   doi: 10.5376/ija.2015.05.0040
Received: 01 Oct., 2015    Accepted: 12 Nov., 2015    Published: 15 Apr., 2016
© 2015 BioPublisher Publishing Platform
This is an open access article published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Preferred citation for this article:

Soliman N.F., and Yacout D.M.M., 2015, The Prospects of Analysing the Environmental Impacts of Egyptian Aquaculture Using Life Cycle Assessment, International Journal of Aquaculture, 5(40): 1-9 

Abstract

Aquaculture is the fastest growing food producing sector. It accounts for nearly 50% of the world food fish. It plays an important role in the economy, providing thousands of jobs for farm technicians and skilled labor. Furthermore, new industries and financial services in support of aquaculture are also providing employment opportunities. In Egypt, very rapid developments have occurred as well. Egypt's aquaculture production (1097544 tonnes in 2013) is by far the largest of any African country and places it 9th in terms of global aquaculture production. This expansion has been accompanied by a gradual shift from extensive and semi-intensive culture systems to more intensive feed dependent system. Although the importance of aquaculture is often understated, the consequent implications on the environment are difficult to ignore. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a useful tool to improve the understanding of the contribution of different production systems to regional sustainable development. Increasing number of LCA studies of aquaculture have been published. The current study reviews the different LCA approaches in both global and regional aquaculture industry focusing on type of studies, production systems and considered environmental impacts. It also, identifies focus points required for future investigations.

Keywords
Life cycle assessment; Aquaculture industry; Egypt

1 Introduction
Aquaculture is being recognized as an important way of increasing food production (Godfray et al., 2010). The stagnation of wild fish catch has created a gap between the supply and the increased demand for fish. This difference has been filled by aquaculture, which has been responsible for most of the net growth in fish production during the last decade (Delgado et al., 2003). In Egypt, aquaculture is considered as one of the fastest growing animal production sectors. During the period 1984 to 2013, production has increased from 15 000 tonnes (9.8 percent of total production) to 1097544 (75.46 percent of total production).While semi-intensive fish culture in earthen ponds is by far the most important farming system in Egypt, last years have witnessed a rapid development of intensive systems in both tanks and cages (Naziri, 2011).
 
Despite the fact that the aquaculture sector in Egypt is now a mature one, having developed over a period of more than 30 years, the environmental impacts of the sector is not well understood or documented. An increasing number of LCA studies of aquaculture have been published. This indicates that LCA is an appropriate mean and will become a mainstream tool to evaluate global and local environmental impacts of seafood production systems. The current study reviews the different LCA approaches in aquaculture industry focusing on type of studied species, productions systems and considered environmental impacts. It also, identifies focus points required for future investigations. 
 
2 Data Source
We used publications from GAFRD (General Authority for Fish Resources Development), Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), and data collected in reports funded by World Fish Center and Fish and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Data sources started from 1999 till 2014. We also reviewed 37 publication and 7 reports as expressed in the list of references.
 
3 Results and Discussion
3.1 Overview of the aquaculture sector in Egypt
3.1.1 Production 
Despite the pressure on water, Egypt has the largest aquaculture industry in Africa with a market value of over $1.3 billion. From small scale levels of production on the early 1990s fish farming has expanded rapidly while capture fishing has remained fairly constant, even declining somewhat after peaking at the beginning of the 21st century (Figure 1) (Mur, 2014). According to the General Authority for fish Resources Development (GAFRD) statistics (GAFRD, 2013) and (CAPMAS, 2014) the total fish production in the Arab Republic of Egypt was 1454401 tonnes where 1097544 were produced from aquaculture.
 

Figure 1 Fish production in Egypt during the period from 1999 to 2013

 

GAFRD plans to develop the country's aquaculture industry further, and has set a goal of 1.2 million tonnes of farmed fish, or about 75 percent of total fish production, by 2017. Its two pronged strategy aims to increase the productivity of aquaculture operations using underground water, while encouraging investment in mariculture (Sadek, 2013).
  
Three decades ago tilapia and mullet were the main species reared in extensive earthen ponds. Today ten finfish (Tilapia; Mullet spp.; Grass Carp; Silver Carp; African Catfish; Bayad; Gilthead seabream; European sea bass; Meagre and Slia) besides four crustacean species (Macrobrachiumrosenbergii, Penaeussemisulcatus; P.japonicus and P.indicus), are playing an important role in the aquaculture production (Sadek, 2013).
 
During 2012 tilapia has chaired 75.54% of the total aquaculture production, followed by Mullet spp., Carp spp., Sea bream, Sea bass and Meager, 12%, 7%, 2%, and 2% respectively (CAPMAS, 2012) (Table 1).

 

 

Table 1 Fish production from aquaculture during the period from 2010 till 2012 (CAPMAS, 2011, 2012, 2014)

 

During the period from 1999 to 2012 the total tilapia production has increased 3.5 times, where in 1999 tilapia production was 216.8 thousand tonnes and become 768.752 thousand tonnes in 2012 (Figure 2).

 

 

Figure 2 New ICT based fertility management model in private dairy farm India as well as abroad

 

3.1.2 Aquaculture production systems
The aquaculture sector involves a wide variety of production systems that differ in their ability to increase food production and achieve food security while conserving the environment (Lazard et al., 2010).
 
Several criteria can be used to classify an aquaculture system. From an economic point of view the most significant criterion is intensity, i.e. the division into intensive, semi-intensive or extensive forms of culture. Measures of intensity include stocking density, production by area, feeding regime and input costs, while the most interesting features is the degree of control within the production process (Asche et al., 2008). 
 
Aquaculture in Egypt consists of extensive, semi-intensive and intensive farming systems. Fish farms are distributed through the Nile Delta region and concentrated mainly in the Northern lakes (Maruit, Edko, Boruls and Manzala) area. The following sections describe the major farming systems.
 
Semi-intensive pond culture: 
In which enclosure are stocked with seed, and other species are discouraged. Food is provided in the form of low protein (10-30%) feed stuffs. The natural production of food is stimulated by the use of fertilizers. Management inputs consist of fertilization, stocking seed fish and regular supplementary feeding. Financial inputs consist of seed fish and low grade feed. The costs are not high.
 
In Egypt, most of the aquaculture production is derived from semi-intensive fish farms in earthen ponds (El-Gayar, 2003). Fish ponds vary in size from 0.5-13 ha with a depth of 50-150 cm. Nile tilapia (Orechromisniloticus), mullets (Mugilcephalus and Liza ramada) are the major culture species (El-Sayed, 2007). Production in semi-intensive systems varies from 5 to 10 tonnes/ha/production cycle (Rothuis et al., 2013).
 
Intensive production:
Intensive production represents complete control by the farmer over all aspects of the production cycle. Other fish species are eliminated from the enclosure prior to high density stoking with the culture species. Complete, premanufactured feeds are provided. These are high protein diets (30-50%), usually based on fishmeal. Additional management inputs often include grading of the fish during the production cycle, into grouping of similar sized fish, to enhance the efficient management of the stock. Financial inputs are high, feed usually being the greatest (FAO, 1991).
 
Intensive pond aquaculture is now expanding to replace large areas of the semi-intensive ponds. Intensive pond systems depend on well designed and constructed earthen ponds. They are smaller in size (0.3 to 0.6 ha) with higher dykes allowing water depth to reach 1.5 to 1.75 meters. Nile tilapia and mullets are the major culture species. The total area utilized for this kind of aquaculture is 19 938 ha with an average production per hectare of 14 to 25 tonnes (FAO, 2010).
 
On the other hand, cage culture is common especially in the most northern branches of the Nile Delta (FAO, 2010). It contributes to about 10% of total aquaculture production. The number of cages in operation is much affected by erratic government policy to restrict and then re-allow cages to operate. Nile tilapia is the principal cage culture species. The sizes of the cages vary from small cages of around 32 m3 to larger cages of around 600 m3, with a productivity of 5-35 kg of fish per m3 depending on management (Rothuis et al., 2013).
 
Traditional extensive production system:
This relies on natural food sources, primarily plankton and algae, as food for the fish.  Natural populations of fish may be confined or the numbers of a particular species enhanced by low level stocking of the water body, and grow of the food source may also be encouraged by limited fertilization of the water. Management and financial inputs are small.
 
In Egypt the "hosha" farming system enclosures are made in natural waters like lagoons, rivers and lakes. Fish (mainly tilapia) are trapped in the hosha and rely on natural foods. It characterized by low yields of production approximately 250 kg/ha. Because of environmental damage and interference with lake fishing the hosha system is now prohibited although it still continues illegally in some places (El-Sayed, 2007). Another traditional extensive production system is rice-fish farming. This farming activity fluctuates with changes in the acreage declined to rice production which in turn depends on the annual water budget (FAO, 2010).
 
3.1.3 Constraints
Egypt witnessed a breakthrough in the field of fish farming, resulting in an industry that is number 9 worldwide and number 1 in Africa. Beside this tremendous development in aquaculture sector in Egypt, there are some major constraints and challenges facing aquaculture industry. 
 
The aquaculture sector in Egypt is not allowed to use irrigation/Nile water, and is generally dependent instead on water in agricultural drainage channels, although some farms may access lake water.  The ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation allocate quotas for water use for agricultural crops, but not for fish farming. As a result, while not universally the case it is certainly true that many farms face problems with water quality, especially when they are located at the downstream end of agricultural drainage channels in such instances water may be used in turn by fish farms with increasingly poor water quality. This practice of reuse of water also means that if there is a disease outbreak, disease can quickly spread though the farms (Macfadyen et al., 2011). 
 
Access to land is a major constraint for small and medium size business growth, and the supply pattern for fresh water tilapia is highly seasonal (Mur, 2014). While the environmental conditions in Egypt are generally favorable for fish production, the colder winter months from January through April place constraints on the fish farming sub-sector, due to the lack of cold tolerance of fish and a growth period that is limited to around 8 months. This 8 months growing period has obvious implications for the size of fish at harvest, and therefore the market prices achieved (Macfadyen et al., 2011).
 
Among the listed problems, feed prices were considered the most serious problem, since most of feed ingredients are imported and their cost are increasing due to both international market prices and declining LE value against US $. Furthermore, resource use conflict (land and water), would be important factor facing aquaculture in future. Egypt is one of the countries which has limited water resources and that reflect of quantity and quality of water available for fish farming. Also increasing prices of farm crops would give incentive to some farmers to switch to agriculture production, which would reduce fish farms size (CIHEAM, 2008).
 
Inadequate representation of fish farmers in policy and decision making was identified as a major constraint for the creation of a conductive policy and institutional environment for aquaculture sector development in Egypt (Mur, 2014).
 
3.2 Life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology
The heightened awareness of the importance of environmental protection, and the possible impacts associated with products, manufactured and consumed, has increased the interest in the development of methods to better comprehend and reduce these impacts. In agreement with Bartley et al. (2007) many assessment tools have been developed recently to evaluate the environmental impacts of food production systems, including risk analysis, ecological footprint, energy analysis and life cycle assessment. 
 
LCA is based on a perspective which includes the whole life cycle. Hence, the environmental impacts of a product are evaluated from cradle to grave, which means from the resource extraction up to the disposal of the product and also the production wastes. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has standardized the general procedure of conducting an LCA in ISO14040: 2006 (International Organization for Standardizations: Environmental Management - Life Cycle Assessment-Principles and Frameworks), ISO14041: 1998 (International Organization for Standardizations: Environmental Management -Life Cycle Assessment-Goal and Scope) and ISO14044: 2006. (International Organization for Standardizations: Environmental Management - Life Cycle Assessment - Requirements and Guidelines).
 
LCA technique assesses the environmental aspects and potential impacts associated with a product, by compiling an inventory of relevant inputs and outputs of a product system, evaluating the potential environmental impacts associated with those inputs & outputs and interpreting the results of the inventory analysis and impact assessment phases in relation to the objectives of the study. LCA studies the environmental aspects and potential impacts throughout product’s life (i.e. cradle to grave) from raw material acquisition through production, use and disposal. The general categories of environmental impacts needing consideration include resource use, human health, and ecological consequences. 
 
LCA can assist in identifying opportunities to improve the environmental aspects of productsat various points in their life cycle, decision-making in industry, governmental or non-governmental organizations (e.g. strategic planning, priority setting, product or process design or redesign) - selection of relevant indicators of environmental performance, including measurement techniques, and marketing (e.g. an environmental claim, eco-labelling scheme or environmental product declaration).
 
The scope, boundaries and level of detail of an LCA study depend on the subject and intended use of the study. The depth and breadth of LCA studies may differ considerably depending on the goal of a particular LCA study. However, in all cases, the principles and framework established in this International Standard should be followed. A LCA consists of four phases: 1) Goal and Scope Definition, 2) Inventory Analysis, 3) Impact Assessment and 4) Interpretation. In the goal definition and scope phase, one should define a system boundary and functional unit for the studied systems. In the inventory phase, inputs and outputs for each life cycle stage are quantified and the inventory results are used to characterize resource depletion, environmental and human health impacts in the impact assessment phase. Life cycle assessment has already become the leading tool for identifying and comparing the environmental impacts of different food production systems (Pelletier and Tyedmers, 2008).
 
3.3 Life cycle assessment in aquaculture industry
In spite of the importance of the aquaculture industry in both developed and developing countries, limited information is available regarding the environmental impacts of this industry. Initially, Jungbluth (2000) stated that due to the absence of a datasets on fish, its environmental impact has been roughly assumed in previous studies to be similar to that of meat. However, the activity of raising cattle on a farm is distinctly different from catching fish in the sea or farming fish in aquacultures. Consequently, a number of studies start to investigate the environmental impacts of aquaculture production using LCA. Cao et al. (2013) stated that LCA studies for seafood production systems have been developed for less than a decade. The LCA was applied on aquaculture systems by some researchers such as Seppala et al. (2001), Papatryphon et al. (2004a, b), Aubin et al. (2006) and Ayer & Tyedmers (2009). Different categories of environmental impacts were selected to evaluate the effect of the aquaculture production system on the environment. On a global level, they include global warming potential, primary production and energy use. At the regional level, eutrophication and acidification potential, water dependence and surface use were considered (Aubin et al., 2004, 2006; Papatryphon et al., 2004a). 
 
Pelletier et al. (2007) indicated that there is a growing trend in the use of LCA to study the sustainability of seafood production systems. Ayer (2010) reviewed twelve case studies for LCAs of aquaculture systems, his review focused on: the species, production system, methodological approaches, and life cycle inventory. He found out that from the twelve case studies 11 different countries were represented: Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Indonesia, Norway, Thailand, U.K., and USA. (Aubin et al., 2006; Aubin et al., 2009; Ayer and Tyedmers, 2009; d’Orbcastel et al., 2009; Mungkung, 2005; Pelletier et al., 2009; Sun, 2009). d’Orbcastel et al. (2009) stated that LCA is a powerful tool which can be used on fish farms to define and prioritize the most promising potential improvements to the system.
 
At the same time, Ayer (2010) indicated that results of LCA case studies in Canada have been taken up by industry, NGOs, and provincial and federal fisheries departments. Results of technology comparison have been used by British Columbia. Moreover, industry interest in LCA has pushed the federal fisheries department to try to incorporate it into their sustainability planning for aquaculture sector, the Federal government recommended that LCA be conducted for any new production system and production system engineers start attempting to improve energy efficiency.
 
Recently, Cao et al. (2013) reviewed the role of life cycle assessment in sustainable aquaculture. They declared that LCA has become the leading tool for identifying key environmental impacts of seafood production systems. LCA evaluates the sustainability of diverse aquaculture systems quantitatively from a cradle-to-grave perspective. It provides a scientific basis for analyzing system improvements and the development of certification and eco-labelling criteria. Current efforts focus on integrating local ecological and socio-economic impacts into the LCA framework. A LCA can play an important role in informing decision makers in order to achieve more sustainable seafood production and consumption.
 
3.3.1 Studied Species 
A number of seafood species were studied using the LCA technique, most of LCA for aquaculture focused on intensive farming and high economic value fishes. The studies considered wild-caught seafood include Swedish cod(Ziegler et al., 2003; Buchspies et al., 2011), Danish fish products (Thrane, 2004), Spanish tuna (Hospido and Tyedmers, 2005) and Norwegian cod (Ellingsen and Aanondsen, 2006), Atlantic salmon (Salmosalar) (Ellingsen and Aanondsen, 2006; Ayer and Tyedmers, 2009; Pelletier et al., 2009; Buchspies et al., 2011), Shrimp (Penaeusmonodon) (Mungkung et al., 2006; Cao et al., 2011), rainbow trout (Gro¨nroos et al., 2006; Aubin et al., 2009; d’Orbcastel et al., 2009; Samuel-Fitwi et al., 2013), Sea bass (Dicentrarchuslabrax) and turbot (Aubin et al., 2009), Tilapia (Oreochromisniloticus) (Pelletier and Tyedmers, 2010) and mussel (Iribarren et al., 2010). Ayer (2010) reported other case studies on species Arctic char (S. alpinus). At the same time, Buchspies et al. (2011) assessed the environmental impacts of “frozen cod, canned mackerel, canned herring or smoked salmon “sold in supermarkets. Furthermore, their results were compared to several meat products. When comparing the results, high sea fish was at the lower end of range for all compared products. 
 
3.3.2 Production systems
The environmental impacts of various aquaculture production systems were studied, Aubin et al. (2009), Ayer and Tyedmers (2009), d’Orbcastel et al. (2009) and Pelletier and Tyedmers (2010) employed LCA to compare the environmental performance of open and closed recirculating systems. They investigated how the life cycle environmental impacts would change if open systems shifted to closed recirculating systems. Ayer (2010) found that 10 different production technologies were assessed both in marine-based and land-based systems: Recirculating, Raceway, Flow-through, Net-pen, Closed cage, Funnel, Ponds, Sea bag, Conventional and Organic (Aubin et al., 2006; Aubin et al., 2009; Ayer and Tyedmers, 2009; d’Orbcastel et al., 2009; Mungkung, 2005; Pelletier et al., 2009; Sun, 2009). 
 
d’Orbcastel et al., (2009) and Samuel-Fitwi et al. (2013) evaluated trout production systems based on the operational information from an operational farm using an extensive flow through system, intensive flow through system and an experimental pilot low head recirculating system. 
 
3.3.3 Environmental impacts
Cao et al. (2013) indicated that a number of environmental impacts have been studied. The most commonly used impact categories in aquaculture LCA according to Ownes (1996) and Pelletier et al. (2007) are global warming, eutrophication, acidification, energy use, biotic resource depletion, abiotic resource depletion, ecotoxicity, ozone depletion and photochemical oxidation. Among them global warming, eutrophication, acidification and energy use have been employed with the highest frequency. Only global warming and ozone depletion have effects on a global scale. Other impact categories manifest regionally on a scale of 100–1000 km or locally to the immediate vicinity (Thrane, 2004).
 
d’Orbcastel et al. (2009) found that main differences between production systems was relative to water use, eutrophication potential and energy use. Independently of the system used, feed was the key indicator in determining the environmental balance (eutrophication potential and water dependence) monitored by fish production, chemical products, buildings and energy consumption. Ayer (2010) and Buchspies et al. (2011) observed as well that feed was the biggest driver of life cycle impacts in most studies (often over 80-90%), plant-derived feed inputs generally have lower life cycle impacts than fish and livestock inputs. 
 
Moreover, Buchspies et al., (2011) declared that in regard to the global warming potential, fish offers an alternative to meat. Depending on the type of fish, emission per kg of filet range between 3.7 and 6.6 kg CO2-eq. For farmed salmon indirect dinitrogen monoxide emissions from nutrient emissions need to be considered. Fish cannot be regarded generally as a more environmentally friendly food product than meat, because environmental impacts of different fish products might be quite variable and be even higher than these of meat.
 
Cao et al. (2013) added that all current seafood production systems generate environmental burdens and thus environmental sustainability is measured in relative terms. Organic farming with low intensity seems to be a promising system if animal derived ingredients are substituted with proper plant-based ingredients in the feed. By comparing captured and farmed seafood with agri-food products, agri-food products, except chicken, are usually more CO2-intensive and perform worse in acidification and eutrophication than seafood products. Beef is the most CO2-intensive and generates the highest impacts in acidification and eutrophication. Wild-caught seafood is more energy-intensive than farmed seafood and agri-food.
 
Regarding energy use, Ayer (2010) declared the efforts to reduce local ecological impacts by using marine and land-based tanks generally result in substantial increases to material and energy inputs. This increase in energy use increases several impacts such as global warming potential and acidification potential. Moreover, management of nutrient flows is a life cycle issue; feeds are the primary source of nutrient inputs to aquaculture systems. Both due to on-site emissions at the fish farm and in the background feed production stage. 
 
Cao et al. (2013) declared that comparative LCA studies indicate that farming systems with relatively lower intensity using more natural systems are more environmentally preferable. Semi-intensive farming outperforms intensive farming systems. Closed recirculating systems outperform open systems in eutrophication emissions and biodiversity reservation but all other environmental impacts such as global warming and energy use are substantially worse. Polyculture appears not superior to monoculture in terms of environmental sustainability. 
 
4 Conclusion 
Aquaculture industry is a fast growing sector in Egypt nowadays. Determining the sector’s environmental impacts is essential in order to ensure its sustainability and promote more environmental friendly practices.Life cycle assessment is a useful tool with great potentials in assisting decision-making for more sustainable seafood production and consumption. More comparative studies are needed to benchmark different aquaculture production systems and their seafood products to promote more sustainable production and consumption. Moreover, in spite of the escalating importance of aquaculture industry in the recent years and the increasing share of Egypt in the industry; few studies were conducted addressing the environmental impacts of aquaculture systems in Egypt. Furthermore, no studies were found investigating this issue in Egypt. It is recommended to conduct future case studies in order to investigate their negative impacts and mitigate those impacts.
 
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International Journal of Aquaculture
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