IntroductionChina supplies the world with fish in a time where fish scarcity is ever increasing. Statistics show that in 2014, China was responsible for 61.6% of the global production of aquaculture harvesting 73.8 million tons worth $138 billion dollars. They are one of the few countries that grows more fish than they catch, providing 80% of the fish that the country consumes. China’s market is expected to grow 3% by 2020. By contrast, the United States only produces 0.4 % of its seafood. Fish is an important source of nutrients in the human diet and is one of the healthiest, yet this important food source is experiencing severe declines. In 2014 National Geographic reported that there was an overall decline of 52% in wildlife from 1970 to 2010. Declines are caused by habitat loss and degradation, over fishing, and climate change (Del’ Amour, 2014). In this time period, the US has been a net importer of fish while China has become a net exporter.
History and Importance of Chinese Aquaculture
A brief history of Chinese fish farming shows that it began in 3500 BC with carp farming. Carp were grown in ponds on silk farms and they ate the waste generated by silk worms. Aquaculture is increasingly important in food security (Li & Wang, 2011). From 1978 to 2008 total production in this industry increased from 125 million tons to 3500 million tons. By 2009, China’s Fishery Bureau announced that aquaculture had exceeded capture, making it the major source of fish production (Li & Wang, 2011). Modern aquaculture supports diversity of species. An initial small traditional product group consisting of carp, mollusks and various seaweeds has grown into multi-polyculture systems having multiple crops in the same space. An important advantage of this method is disease prevention. Integrated farm system models are difficult to optimize but they are essential to nutrient retention and loss minimization.
Adaptability and variety are supported by modern Chinese aquaculture. In China, there have been many research projects contributing to improved function. Areas of successful research include photosynthetic bacteria based improvements in water quality and probiotics in disease prevention. Newer varieties of fish include GIFY strain Nile tilapia, genetically engineered triploid crucian carp and triploid common carp. In 2008 Mollusks made up 79% of marine cultured production. Other species included seaweed, fish and crustaceans. Major freshwater species were dominated by fish which contributed to 86% of production. 10% were crustaceans and 2% were mollusks (Li & Wang, 2011). Since 2002 more than 50 new technical standards supporting pollution free aquiculture have been developed. Nearly 50 standards have been developed to regulate drug residue and improve inspection (Li & Wang, 2011).
Comparison of aquaculture production in China and the US shows China’s overwhelming dominance. According to NOAA’s Fish Watch, 90% of fish consumed in the United States is imported but this is likely to change. According to Michael Rubino, NOAA aquaculture director, the U.S. can rapidly increase domestic fish production. He further advises that it won’t even be very space consuming. For example, 1 million tons of fish a year could be harvested in an 8-mile square area (Dan, 2014). Though the US is slow to seriously participate in the aquaculture market, one company, Local Ocean in Hudson, NY began making great strides when they developed the world’s first commercial zero discharge intensive aquiculture system. In this farming process absolutely no waste water is released into the ocean. Instead mechanical and bio-filters were employed to filter all the impurities (Clark, 2012). Unfortunately, the new company was foreclosed upon in 2013. There appears to be little public support for US aquaculture. China with less ambitious constraints for public investment, contributes more than 60% of global aquaculture by volume world-wide (CAO et al, 2015).
Both China and US governments support aquaculture’s need for improvement. The US Government’s financial support for aquaculture has been on the increase. As of April 2016, the US Department of Agriculture had $1.2 million available for environmentally sustainable aquaculture research. Research supported includes genetics of commercial aquaculture species, disease impact, sustainable aquaculture production systems and economic profitability. Although the US imports $12 billion in seafood products annually, this endeavor to develop domestic aquaculture seems extraordinarily underfunded. In China, only 4 percent of the nation’s annual investment is devoted to agriculture and aquaculture. In comparison, more than 30 percent is invested in real estate (Mao, 2016).
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations recommends specific zoning to promote environmental sustainability. Target locations for aquaculture should encompass a portion of the catchment area from the source of a waterway to the water body allocated to aquaculture development. Integration of aquaculture activities into broader land use goals is preferable. Improved public agency coordination in the areas of licensing and monitoring will consider nearby producers and diversification of land use. Negative environmental impacts include pollution of marine areas and introduction of synthetic and organic pollutants into aquatic ecosystems. Fish wastes and uneaten feed contribute to nutrient loading which in turn contributes to oxygen depletion and algae blooms causing fish die offs. Antibiotics used to treat fish populations harm non target species increasing pathogen resistance and create unbalanced aquatic ecosystems.
Wild fish production throughout the world is in decline and aquaculture is repairing this deficit. China is without opposition the world leader in aquaculture production. But this industry is challenged in the areas of environmental sustainability and management. China is supporting research for more productive and environmentally healthy growth. Continued proactive government policies, advanced planning, continuous feedback and well-designed scientific production technologies will ensure the country’s stable, sustainable and equitable future as a global provider of healthy fish nutrition (Li & Wang, 2011).
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- Clark, M.(2012) NY-Based Local Ocean Poised to Profit from World’s First Zero-Discharge Aquaculture System. Retrieved http://seedstock.com/2012/03/12/hudson-ny-based-local-ocean-poised-to-profit-from-worlds-first-sustainable-zero-discharge-aquaculture-system/
- Dan, C. (2014). The future of clean green fish farming could be indoors. National public radio. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/04/07/298333029/the-future-of-clean-green-fish-farming-could-be-indoor-factories.
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- Li, J. & Wang. (2011). Aquaculture Industry in China: Current State, Challenges, and Outlook. Reviews in Fisheries Science. DOI. 10.1080/10641262.2011.573597.
- Mao, G. (2016). How government policy has failed China’s seafood sector. Retrieved from http://www.seafoodsource.com/news/supply-trade/how-government-policy-has-failed-china-s-seafood-sector
- NOAA. US Seafood Facts. Fish Watch. Retrieved from https://www.fishwatch.gov/sustainable-seafood/the-global-picture
- US Department of Agriculture. USDA Announces $1.2 Million in Available Funding for Aquaculture Research. Retrieved from https://nifa.usda.gov/announcement/usda-announces-12-million-available-funding-aquaculture-research