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China has big appetite for ocean delights

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Posted October 4, 2013

Given the fact that China has the largest population in the world, it’s no surprise that is also consumes the most seafood.

“The rate at which China is consuming seafood is rising,” says ANU alumnus and marine researcher Dr Michael Fabinyi.

“The scale of this consumption is really high, so it presents important challenges and opportunities for different countries.”

Dr Fabinyi’s work highlights the implications that China’s sizeable appetite might have on the rest of the globe.

China is the leading market in high-value, or ‘luxury’, seafood items such as live reef fish, sea cucumbers, and shark fin.

“I have done a lot of research in The Philippines that shows that many coastal livelihoods are dependent on the export of these luxury items to China,” he says.

“While this has provided a lot of opportunities for economic development and growth in many of the poorer coastal communities, there are obviously some ecological impacts that come along with trying to keep up with this demand, including the depletion of fishery stocks and the degradation of the reef due to destructive fishing methods.

“There are also long-term concerns about the future viability of fisheries, sustainable development, and food stocks.”

Dr Fabinyi stresses that the Chinese seafood consumption has very different implications depending on whether the country suppling the food is developed or not.

“For many developed countries that have the resources to manage their fisheries sustainably, Chinese seafood consumption presents a great economic opportunity.

“Developing countries are presented with similar economic opportunities, but whether they are able to take advantage of these opportunities in more sustainable ways that benefit their societies in the long term is something that needs ongoing attention.

“The trade often gets a really bad reputation, especially amongst conservationists because of the environmental impacts, but it is massively important for many local communities in developing countries where there may not be other pathways to a reasonable quality of life.”

Source: Australian National University

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