China plays a dominant role in the global seafood trade: its capture fisheries output is the highest in the world, estimated at 15.6 million tons in 2010, and its aquaculture production is three times as high (almost 48 million tons in 2010, roughly two-thirds of the world’s total production). The country also leads the world in aquafeed and fishmeal use, fishmeal imports, fish and shellfish consumption and seafood exports.
Fish and shellfish production and consumption in China are expected to increase in future decades as incomes rise. The middle class already consists of 300 million people and is predicted to reach 600 to 800 million by 2025. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts that China’s average seafood consumption will jump by one-third by 2020. Consumption patterns will also change: in addition to eating more fish and shellfish per capita, the Chinese middle and upper classes are increasingly eating more high-valued fish. It is likely that China’s growing demand for fish will be met largely by domestic capture fisheries, aquaculture, and seafood imports.
Given China’s demographic changes and dominant role in global fisheries, the main question for this project is whether marine ecosystems can be managed in a way that supports the country’s future vision for domestic food security.
The project includes two primary components: