Boston conference session addresses approaching seafood shortage
The attentive crowd at a special March 21 conference session during the International Boston Seafood Show heard a panel of experts from the United States, China, Malaysia and Chile address the massive expansion of global seafood demand that will soon face the aquaculture industry.
During “Averting an Impending Seafood Shortage: Building on the Insights of GOAL 2010,” sponsored by the Global Aquaculture Alliance and Diversified Business Communications, representatives of international aquaculture companies, producer groups and retailers shared strategic views on current and near-future aquaculture production and markets.
A main purpose for the session was to explore ideas on how the varied elements of the aquaculture industry can work together to prepare for a future with much higher seafood demand and tighter global resources – important realities reported at GOAL 2010. During the conference in Malaysia, coupling genetic selection with well-controlled, intensive growout systems was identified as a key enabling technology for producing more with less.
Boston speaker Li Zhong, president of the China Aquatic Production Chamber of Commerce and chairman of Zhanjiang Guolian Aquatic Product Co., Ltd. confirmed that Chinese consumers are spending more of their rising food budgets on seafood than other meat proteins. Although China’s highly efficient aquaculture industry has boosted production, he said, the increase can not keep up with demand, and China will soon become a net consumer/importer of seafood.
Shahridan Faiez of the World Bank, who had also addressed GOAL 2010, said China and India are driving expansion of the global middle class. Food safety is pushing Chinese consumers to modern retail formats and premium prices for seafood. Faiez also said the World Bank is examining avenues for economic growth and food security that include the Integrated Zone for Aquaculture concept for modern shrimp farming in rural Malaysia.
Adolfo Alvial, founder of Adolfo Alvial Consultancies, explained the rapid development of Chile’s salmon farming industry, which has recently suffered from disease issues. Alvial said that problems related to siting and environmental controls are being addressed through revised regulations, greater monitoring and cooperation among farms. The sector is recovering, and in 2010, productivity rose above pre-crisis levels. Chile will continue to answer the call for more salmon, he said.
Joe Zhou, a senior director of seafood procurement at Darden who spoke from a U.S. foodservice perspective, said seafood sustainability is a top-10 trend for 2011. Aquaculture can sustainably support additional production to meet growing demand, but consumer prices must remain affordable to maintain seafood growth.
In a related presentation, Michael Rubino, manager of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Aquaculture Program, recognized U.S. contributions to aquaculture production and feed, broodstock and seedstock equipment and technology. NOAA supports a national policy that puts marine aquaculture in the context of stewardship, social and economic goals. Draft policy documents are available online for comment through April 11 at www.aquaculture.noaa.gov.
Robert Fields – senior director for fresh meat, seafood and gourmet deli at Sam’s Club – said that to increase the availability of sustainable seafood, Walmart and Sam’s Club will require all their seafood products to come from sources certified sustainable according to Marine Stewardship Council, Best Aquaculture Practices or equivalent standards by next year. The new position builds on earlier policy and now covers both farmed and wild seafood of various types.