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September 2013 - October 2016
The Importance of Marine Fisheries and Ecosystems for Food Security In China


Workers check on open-water aquaculture pens at a fish farm in China. Photo credit: Max Troell.


Principal Investigator
Senior Fellow
  • Professor, Earth System Science
  • Senior Fellow, Stanford Woods Institute
  • Associate Professor, by courtesy, Economics
Research scholar

China plays a dominant role in the global seafood trade: its capture fisheries output is the highest in the world, estimated at 15.6 million tons in 2010, and its aquaculture production is three times as high (almost 48 million tons in 2010, roughly two-thirds of the world’s total production). The country also leads the world in aquafeed and fishmeal use, fishmeal imports, fish and shellfish consumption and seafood exports.

Fish and shellfish production and consumption in China are expected to increase in future decades as incomes rise. The middle class already consists of 300 million people and is predicted to reach 600 to 800 million by 2025. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts that China’s average seafood consumption will jump by one-third by 2020. Consumption patterns will also change: in addition to eating more fish and shellfish per capita, the Chinese middle and upper classes are increasingly eating more high-valued fish. It is likely that China’s growing demand for fish will be met largely by domestic capture fisheries, aquaculture, and seafood imports.

Given China’s demographic changes and dominant role in global fisheries, the main question for this project is whether marine ecosystems can be managed in a way that supports the country’s future vision for domestic food security.

The project includes two primary components:

  • A three-day workshop in May of 2014 at the Stanford Center at Peking University in Beijing, China. This international symposium brought together 26 leading Chinese and international scientists and policy experts studying food security, fisheries, aquaculture and marine ecosystems, to share knowledge and develop long-term professional relationships and research collaboration. The symposium featured current research on the provision of wild fish for direct human consumption and for animal feeds, the ability of the Chinese aquaculture sector to satisfy the country’s rising seafood demand, and the use of wild fish in aquaculture feeds. A follow-up meeting took place March 24-26, 2015 in Shanghai. 
  • A series of papers on the above topics in leading scientific journals, co-authored by Chinese and international scholars, including participants in the May 2014 and March 2015 workshops.