A sustainable approach for the world’s fish supply

via Leiden University
via Leiden University

China’s booming aquaculture industry is increasingly dependent on fishmeal made from wild-caught fish, a practice that depletes wild fish stocks.

A new study conducted by institutions including Leiden University and Stanford offers a more sustainable path. The study appeared in the journal Science on 9 January.

The researchers propose recycling the waste by-products from seafood processing plants as feed for farm-raised fish. This would provide from one half to two-thirds of the amount of fishmeal currently needed by Chinese fish farms. The study was conducted by a research team led by postdoctoral fellow Ling Cao and Professor Rosamond Naylor from Stanford University. The team also included staff from Leiden University (PhD student Patrik Henriksson) and University of Wollongong, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and Shanghai Ocean University.

Chinese fish production

China is the world’s leading producer, consumer and processor of fish, contributing one-third of the global supply. China’s fish production has tripled in the past 20 years, and about three-quarters of its supply now comes from fish farms. Yet the industry still places huge pressure on wild fisheries as its demand grows for fishmeal and fishoil made from wild-caught species. How China develops its aquaculture and aquafeeds sector can thus tip the balance of global seafood availability (ocean fish, crustaceans andshellfish). ‘There is a clear opportunity for positive change, but the economic and regulatory incentives for such change are not yet in place,’ said Naylor, the William Wrigley Professor in the School of Earth Sciences and director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford.

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