Aquaculture for all

Improving the Sustainability of China's Aquaculture Industry

Nutrition Sustainability +2 more

CHINA - A recent study from Stanford University highlighted the pressure that China's huge aquaculture sector has on wild fish stocks. Although the study addressed some concerns in the industry, it is important to take a look at how the Chinese industry is currently approaching these issues and what more can be done, writes Lucy Towers, TheFishSite Editor.

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The Marine Ingredients Organisation IFFO welcomed the study as a useful and timely contribution that highlighted areas of concern, but stated that there are inaccuracies that need highlighting.

China is already looking to the use of by-products for fishmeal as, according to the FAO, processing of by-products makes up around 40 per cent of fishmeal production in the country.

The IFFO added that whilst the production of formulated aquaculture feeds in China has trebled from around 5 to 15 million tonnes over the last ten years, the use of fishmeal has only doubled, from 500,000 tonnes to 1 million tonnes.

IFFO data also suggests that fishmeal imports into China in 2012 were around 1.2 million tonnes and local production was around 0.5 million tonnes with aquaculture using 1 million tonnes and agriculture around 0.7 million tonnes.

“IFFO supports the central message of this paper that the Chinese government and industry must ensure that both imported and domestically produced fishmeal is produced from responsibly managed fisheries. However, as with most modern aquaculture, in China the amount of fish used in feed is now less that the amount of farmed fish produced,” said Andrew Jackson, Technical Director, IFFO.

Despite the progress already being made by China towards more sustainable feed, the IFFO states that more needs to be done to be able to access accurate information. The organisation is therefore setting up a project, working with the FAO and the China Fisheries Society, to gather more data on the production of fishmeal in each province and its raw material usage.

There must also be more focus on the potential of improving the use of by-products from the aquaculture industry as fishmeal produced from this raw material will have a lower protein content, but done using best industry practice it can produce an excellent finished product ideal for use in many aquaculture feeds, continued the IFFO.

Lastly, the IFFO noted that more control and responsibility is needed in fishmeal production. At present, many fish caught are either fed directly as wet fish in marine farms or delivered to fishmeal plants where no attempt is made to record its origin and volume.

Another way forward to assure a sustainable future for China's fish feed sector is therefore through the certification of its feed mills and farms to sustainable certification standards.

The Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA), for example, has a Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) feed mill standard. The BAP feed mill standards address the environmental sustainability of reduction fisheries by requiring that by June 1, 2015, a minimum of 50 per cent of the fishmeal and fish oil derived from reduction fisheries or fishery by-products must originate from certified sources.

Chinese aquaculture may also benefit from the GAA's new group certification scheme for small-scale farmers (For more information on this please sign up to the free Sustainable Aquaculture Digital).

Research in China is also on-going into alternatives to fishmeal for use in aquaculture feeds.

Ari Jadwin of Aquafude, which is based in Chengdu, China, is exploring the potential of insect meal as a feed ingredient.

Aquafude works with farmers who buy the company’s high-quality feed, and, in turn, the farmers agree to sell the fish back to Aquafude. The company then supplies the fish to high-end restaurants and hotels in western China.

“We have this platform to implement, and we want to do this in the fastest-growing part of China before the competition takes hold,” said Mr Jadwin.

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