Christmas and the holidays we all know are traditionally a time of good will, a time many of us spend with family and friends, when we start thinking about resolutions for the New Year and perhaps foremost for many – a time to eat.
The health conscious amongst us may turn to a less calorific option – fish
Yes, many of us put on serious calories over this festive period – one Christmas dinner can deliver a whopping 3,000 calories1 and the average person consumes as much as 6,000 calories on Christmas day alone – this is equivalent to eating 4.8kg of egg-fried rice, or 42 bananas, or 23 and a half hamburgers.
The somewhat health conscious amongst us may then turn to a less calorific option – fish. Fish and particular live fish are favorites in Asia, with Hong Kong and China in particular being voracious consumers.
Fisheries are an important sector within China’s national economy, contributing around 10.5% of agricultural GDP in 2004. China is, as you might expect among the top three global importers of fish and fishery products (USD 7.4 billion in 2012), but you may be surprised to learn that Hong Kong makes up the 10th largest global importer (USD 3.7 billion in 2012)2, despite its relatively modest population of 7 million.
Unfortunately, in spite of our appetite, all is not well in the oceans. Recent research released by leading fisheries experts from the University of British Columbia, illustrate that for a range of popular Asian Seafood 3, by 2045 there will likely be a decrease in biomass (volume of fish) ranging from 9-59%. We will be paying up to 8 times more than we are today for our much loved grouper.
Unfortunately all is not well in the oceans
By 2045 there will likely be a decrease in volume of fish ranging from 9-59%
These figures relate to business as usual in relation to fish resources from the South China Sea. If however we get our act together, keep climate change in check (which in addition to over fishing is will wreaking havoc on our seas) and better manage these resources sustainably, wild stocks of tuna and mackerels would recover, substantially by 17-fold, while population biomasses of groupers, large croakers, threadfin breams and shrimps would recover 3-5 fold.
This can change if we get our act together
Moving north of the South China Sea, the East China Sea’s coastal waters are heavily impacted by pollution from the Yangtze River basin and additional challenges to maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem are the large water transfer and dam projects there.4 Turning the tide on depleting coastal fish stocks will undoubtedly mean addressing these water issues.
But what about aquaculture? – This sadly, is only part of the solution, as fish generally eat fish and it can take 10kg of wild fish to produce 1kg of grouper. Nevertheless aquaculture is on the rise and in 2012, China was responsible for 62% of the global aquaculture production5 as well as 72% of China’s total reported national fish production6.This may well raise your eyebrows, as a lot of this takes place on land and yes, uses a lot of water.
Opt for sustainable seafood products
So if you are opting for a festive feast of fish this Christmas, look for sustainable products – check out a guide on this here or click on the tables below. They may not be easy to find, but they are here and if you demand it, more will come.
2 Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) (2014), The state of world fisheries and aquaculture opportunities and challenges.
3 Reef fishes, shrimps, cephalopods (squid etc.), threadfin bream, Groupers, Large croaker
Sharks, Small pelagics (e.g. sardines), crabs , large pelagics (e.g. tuna) and demersal fishes (e.g. seabreams)
4 Li Daoji and Dag Daler. Ocean Pollution from Land-based Sources: East China Sea, China, AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, 33(1):107-113.
5 FAO 2014 as above
6 Cao, L., Naylor, R., Henriksson, P., Leadbitter, D., Metian, M., Troell, M., & Zhang, W. (2015). China’s aquaculture and the world’s wild fisheries. Science 347 (6218): 133-135.
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