By 2030, China is likely to need an additional 6-18 million tonnes of seafood – an increase of 9-27 percent – to satisfy projected domestic consumption, according to a perspective paper published in One Earth, led by researchers from the Stockholm Resilience Centre.
The paper notes that China is currently the leading aquaculture producer in the world, accounting for 58 percent of global production in 2018. Approximately 90 percent of freshwater volumes are accounted by finfish, dominated by carp and tilapia, representing about 64 percent and 11 percent of global freshwater finfish, respectively. Carp are produced mainly for domestic consumption, whereas tilapia are primarily exported as a low-cost alternative to other whitefish in many countries.
However, according to the report, “consumer notions of high-quality and safe seafood generally include wild (as opposed to farmed), marine (as opposed to freshwater), and imported (as opposed to domestically produced) seafood, particularly from countries considered to have ‘clean’ waters, such as Australia, Norway, and North America.”
“While domestic production of carp and molluscs might be a plausible way of filling a growing seafood demand in China, a key challenge remains: namely how to shift observed consumer trends away from marine, carnivorous, and imported species in a context of a rapidly urbanizing and wealthier population. Current trends indicate increasing Chinese demand for marine and higher trophic level species that will require larger volumes of fish-based feed, unless suitable alternatives are developed. Better utilization of domestic or foreign processing waste could initially fill such a feed gap but the degree to which it can satisfy the total projected feed demand remains uncertain. Aligning production and consumption in a productionist-focused trajectory would thus entail either solving the feed equation or drastically curtailing Chinese consumer choices,” they add.
This decline in demand for seafood produced through aquaculture domestically is mirrored by a number of production constraints highlighted in the report.
“Mussels and seaweeds already play a significant role in China’s aquaculture portfolio. Their expansion is not limited by feed development, but instead by competition for space with other industries, and is highly affected by degraded water quality. Current trends already indicate increasingly degraded coastal water quality, but the stated ambition to strengthen pollution regulation could change this trajectory. Suitable space and access to freshwater and healthy environments are thus two key factors that could limit expansion of aquaculture on land and along coasts. Offshore areas may offer alternative routes…
Read more:: Challenging times for Chinese aquaculture