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IFFO points to inaccurancies in China's aquaculture report

Dr Andrew Jackson is currently the Technical Director of IFFO. (Photo: Stock File)

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Thursday, January 22, 2015, 01:10 (GMT + 9)
IFFO has welcomed a recent paper published in Science entitled China’s aquaculture and the world’s wild fisheries and recognises it is a useful and timely contribution, but affirms that there are inaccuracies that need highlighting.

“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.

According to the international non-profit organisation, 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.  But 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.

IFFO says the paper fails to mention that while 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, however, 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.

However, the marine ingredients organisation states that the points above though should not detract from the importance of this paper.

IFFO agrees with the challenges faced in accessing accurate information in China in this area and says that to improve this situation, it has initiated a project working with 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.

Finally, IFFO recognises that 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.


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