Aquaculture: The new gold rush

The world’s population is growing, and with it the middle class is increasing. By 2030, two-thirds of the world’s middle class will reside in Asia, which will have a huge impact on the world’s seafood demand, a demand that will be met only through aquaculture.

How to double or triple aquaculture production responsibly was the issue at hand during the seminar “Averting an Impending Seafood Shortage: Building on the Insights of GOAL 2010” at the International Boston Seafood Show on Monday.

“What’s the first thing that happens when people have more disposable income? They upgrade their diet,” said George Chamberlain, president of the Global Aquaculture Alliance. “They begin to buy more animal protein, and, in China, the animal protein that’s being selected is seafood.”

According to Chamberlain, China is expected to switch from its current status as a net seafood exporter to a net seafood importer this year. China’s demand for shrimp alone will reach 4 billion metric tons by 2015. By comparison, U.S. seafood consumption totaled 4.5 billion pounds last year.

“These trends that we’re all aware of, we’ve been thinking of them as something in the future, something distant. The reality is that they’re already sweeping over us and we’re already seeing the impact,” said Chamberlain.

According to panelists, the key to increasing aquaculture production to meet burgeoning demand is improved technology. With new technologies, shrimp cycles that used to be about 150 days are shortening, lowering costs. And fishmeal use is also dropping, resulting in being about to produce more seafood for less.

In 2002, farms were getting yields of a little more than 3,000 per hectare, and in 2010, modern, state-of-the-art farms are getting a yield of 50,000 per hectare. In China, farming technique improvements are already bringing about more production for less cost. According to Li Zhong of China’s Aquatic Production Chamber of Commerce, who’s also president of Zhanjiang Guolian Aquatic Products, plants that used to produce 1 kilogram are now producing 10,000 kilograms or more. 

“Aquaculture is the world’s fastest growing food production system,” said Shahridan Faiez of World Bank. “In 2030, the size of the Asian middle class will be 3 billion strong. It’s going to cause a major supply gap. There will be a global scramble to produce seafood, making aquaculture the new gold rush.”


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