IFFO responds to report on aquaculture in China

IFFO WELCOMES a recent paper published in Science entitled ‘China’s aquaculture and the world’s wild fisheries’, recognising it as a useful and timely contribution, but with inaccuracies that need highlighting.
The paper correctly lists some key areas of concern in China including the better use of by-products from the processing of aquaculture products, the issue of poor control on the exploitation of mixed fisheries and the lack of accurate data available in this area.
However some important facts were ignored regarding the current use of by-products, the levels of fishmeal used in aquaculture compared with land animal production, and the overall net fish production versus the use of fishmeal.
IFFO and FAO estimate that around one third of current global fishmeal is already coming from fish processing by-products, and a recent FAO OECD page predicted that this would increase to over 40 per cent by 2020.
In China, the most recent data from FAO estimates that processing by-products make up around 40 per cent of fishmeal production.
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, according to IFFO data, from 500,000 tonnes to 1 million tonnes.
The paper fails to mention that whilst aquaculture in China is the biggest user of fishmeal – land animal production uses around 700,000 tonnes annually.
IFFO data suggests that 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.
Finally, in the last two years aquaculture production in China has continued to grow, whilst fishmeal imports have decreased considerably to well below 1 million tonnes.
IFFO is therefore of the opinion that China’s fed aquaculture industry produces far more fish than it consumes, drawing a conflicting conclusion to that found in the paper.
The points above though should not however detract from the importance of this paper. IFFO agrees with the challenges faced in accessing accurate information in China in this area.
To improve this situation, IFFO has initiated a project working with UN FAO and the China Fisheries Society to gather more data on the production of fishmeal in each province and its raw material usage.
The paper also draws attention to the potential of improving the use of by-products from the processing of aquaculture products, both those grown in China and those imported.
The fishmeal produced from this raw material would usually 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.
The poor control on the exploitation of the mixed fisheries in China is also highlighted in the paper. The fish caught in these fisheries 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.
This lack of control is already having a serious effect on the productivity of these fisheries and IFFO endorses the desire of the report for more responsible production of fishmeal and fish oil in China.
Commenting on the paper, Andrew Jackson, Technical Director, IFFO, said: ‘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.’