The Aquaculture Stewardship Council has formed an alliance with two partners in China, the China Aquatic Products Processing and Marketing Alliance (CAPPMA) and WWF China, to begin to tackle the problem of how to help the world’s biggest grower of Tilapia to operate in a more environmentally sustainable way. This has been made possible by a grant of €1 million from the European Union (EU).
Tilapia is the second largest species of fish farmed (after carp) worldwide. Global production of farmed tilapia is almost 3 million metric tonnes a year, with 40% produced by China. Four southern provinces, Hainan, Guangdong, Guangxi, and Fujian, account for about 90% of China’s total production.
China is the world’s biggest tilapia exporter, with over 50% of Chinese tilapia entering into the global market. The EU is currently the third largest importer of Chinese tilapia, with a share of around 10%. An increasing number of European consumers are buying tilapia and the EU is a growing market for Chinese tilapia.
But there are two major challenges facing tilapia aquaculture in China. The first is a lack of transparency in the supply chain. Without access to sufficient information on issues such as traceability, hygienic regulation and environmental management, the confidence of consumers in the industry and its products will be lower than desirable. The second is the known weakness of the production system in some Chinese Tilapia farms where unsustainable practices such as poorly managed chemical use, pollution to waterways, species invasion and conversion of natural wetlands is known to exist.
The ASC partnership with CAPPMA and WWF China will tackle these problems and help to drive the Chinese Tilapia aquaculture industry towards a more sustainable basis. With a grant of €1 million from the EU-China Environmental Governance Programme, the action will engage Tilapia aquaculture enterprises in China proactively and promote more sustainable practices. In addition, it will also enable public access to information on the Tilapia supply chain, raise consumer awareness and advise the government of China on sustainable fish farming policies.
Welcoming this new initiative for the ASC Chris Ninnes, CEO, commented “this is a most challenging, but exciting, project for the ASC. Thanks to the support of the EU, the ASC and its two partners CAPPMA and WWF China will be able to begin to help move a key industry towards a more environmentally sustainable, socially responsible form of operation. Tilapia producers in China, and consumers in Europe as well as in China and elsewhere, will have a new opportunity to encourage and support fish farmers of Tilapia who follow best practice in this important industry. European retailers and food service providers are keen to buy ASC certified Chinese Tilapia. It is up to all of us to help develop the market in the right way and ensure that this most valuable EU initiative succeeds.
The two year long project has three specific objectives: to improve the transparency of Chinese Tilapia aquaculture production by improving public (both in China and Europe) access to detailed information on the Tilapia supply chain; to promote sustainable production of Chinese Tilapia by introducing ASC standards to China and supporting leading Chinese Tilapia producers selling to the European market to achieve ASC Certification; and to establish and maintain an effective information sharing platform accessible to the public and to advocate for policy and guide consumer demand that can enable and encourage sustainable Tilapia production practices.
Cui He, Vice Executive President and Secretary-General CAAPMA said “China as the largest developing country is also a power in aquaculture. Developing countries contribute nearly an 80% share of the global aquaculture industry, so how to guide them to go down a sustainable aquaculture road seems very important. The Chinese Tilapia industry is looking for the sustainable development method all the time. Based on the chance given by the EU project, CAPPMA would like to direct Chinese Tilapia producers towards complying with the ASC standards. Through the encouragement from capable and responsible big Tilapia companies that implement the ASC standards first, the whole tilapia industry can enjoy an improvement in environmental and social benefits. CAPPMA really hopes that the goal of the sustainable development of the Chinese Tilapia industry can be achieved early as more companies achieve ASC certification.“
A spokesman for the third partner, WWF China, Wang Songlin, Senior Marine Programme Officer said “this is a remarkable moment for WWF and our partners to kick off the transformative change in China’s enormous Tilapia aquaculture sector towards higher efficiency and measurable environmental sustainability. It is great that we are not only witnessing this change, but also contributing to it.”
Recently the first ASC certified farmed fish products entered the world’s seafood markets. So far eight Tilapia farms in Indonesia, Ecuador and Honduras have received ASC certification.