The role of China's aquaculture for global food security
The scale and complexity of China’s aquaculture sector places it in a precarious position between adding and depleting global seafood availability. China is by far the world’s largest producer and consumer of farmed fish and shellfish, and whether the sector will relieve pressure, or place increasing strain, on wild fisheries in the future depends critically on its use and sourcing of fish inputs in aquafeeds. The intersecting dynamics of China’s aquaculture and wild fisheries activities has been largely obscured to date by poor data and reporting, and by the complicated nature of fish feed production and use within the country.
Here we use primary data from field surveys, and information from international and Chinese sources, to quantify and characterize China’s use of feed inputs from targeted and non-targeted (multi-species) fisheries. The latter includes over 70 species of fish captured indiscriminately in Chinese waters, up to half of which are identified to be juveniles of commercially important species. China is also the largest importer of fishmeal produced from wild fisheries, purchasing one-third or more of the global market in any given year. To explore an important remedy to the problem of overfishing for China’s aquaculture feeds, we develop a model that calculates the potential substitution of fish processing wastes for wild fish in feed production. We show that, if food safety and supply chain constraints can be overcome, extensive use of fish processing wastes in feeds could help China meet one-half or more of its current fishmeal demand, thus greatly reducing pressure on domestic and international fisheries.