China looks abroad for aquaculture expertise

While a leader in aquaculture development, China is reaching out for help overseas to improve fish health techniques.

Academies training China’s aquaculture professionals “are very keen to collaborate on developing vaccines and other health control solutions. Toxicology and nutrition are also areas in which the Chinese are keen to establish academic exchanges,” said Alexandra Adams, professor of aquatic immunology and diagnostics at the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture in Scotland.

In June, the University of Stirling signed an agreement with Guangdong Ocean University to allow students from China to transfer to Stirling following their four-year undergraduate BS degree to pursue an aquaculture master’s program.

Adams said there’s big demand among Chinese applicants for her institution’s master’s programs since China is still developing aquaculture-specific master’s programs in its national network of provincial agricultural universities, tasked with educating talent for the sector. She says applicants with an English-language qualification “typically find positions in the export and health departments at big fish farms and fish-feed companies.”

Others providing training in China — which produces 70 percent of the world’s aquaculture output and faces growing internal demand for seafood products — believe that China needs help dispersing know-how to the lower end of the supply chain. Rui Gomes Ferreira, managing director of London-based aquaculture training firm Longline, said while Chinese aquaculture universities produce “excellent research,” it needs to increase the transfer of knowledge and cutting-edge technology to Chinese aquaculture.

China is world class in terms of production techniques, said Ferreira, but it needs to employ “some of the cutting edge techniques for aquaculture planning available in Europe and the United States. This ranges from modeling the sustainable aquaculture output for different areas and types of cultures to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) applications.”

He said Chinese aquaculture is a world leader in terms of variety of species and culture setups like polyculture and Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA). “In many instances, their skills and know-how surpasses other producing countries,” said Ferreira.

While China matches other regional and Western players in hatchery and grow-out, its training system needs to be more responsive to small farmers who make up the bulk of producers. “While knowledge from large institutions is often available to larger commercial operations, it needs to get to individual farmers,” he explained.

Sustainability will be key to the future of local aquaculture and needs to be prioritized in training, added Ferreira. “Most of the work relating to carrying capacity and the environmental side of things is being driven by Europe and the U.S.,” he said. Ferreira sees delay in devising and implementing sustainable aquaculture practices in China and Southeast Asia as “major constraining factors to the long-term development of the aquaculture industry in the region.”

Longline has been advised government and academia in China on environmental impact of aquaculture — it recently ran SPEAR (Sustainable Options for People, Catchment and Aquatic Resources), a project looking at sustainable aquaculture in China.

“China is a very important market for us, and we hope to be able to combine our knowledge and our experience of doing business in China to work closer with government and industry,” said Ferreira.

China already provides technical support and expertise to Western aquaculture industries, particularly in husbandry techniques. But Chinese know-how is also being tapped by developing nations. China’s Freshwater Fisheries Research Centre (FFRC) has given pro bono training to fisheries officials and academics in Guinea and the Ivory Coast. Officials from Caribbean and African countries have attended trainings by the China Academy of Fishery Sciences at its campus in the southeastern city of Wuxi, which also hosts the FFRC.

Also run out of the FFRC in Wuxi, the Asian-Pacific Regional Research and Training Centre for Integrated Fish Farming (IFFC) was established jointly by the Chinese government with the UN to extend Chinese aquaculture techniques worldwide. A spokesperson for the IFFC said the academy is keen to dispatch academic staff to share technical skills while also providing scholarships and study grants to developing countries.


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