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When it comes to aquaculture in China, the numbers are staggering: at 30.6 million tonnes per year (2015), China produces approximately 65% of the world’s freshwater aquaculture output, in an industry that employs 9.1 million people.

When not practiced with sustainability in mind, aquaculture can have a significant impact on water quality and the environment: one of the main problems is excess nutrients due to feed and fish waste. Pressure from market demand over the past few decades has led to high yields being the main priority for the aquaculture sector, to the detriment of action on the environmental impacts of fish farming.

The Yangtze river basin is one of the main hubs for freshwater aquaculture and the industry has had a significant impact on the river’s ecology. The river is also of paramount ecological importance. The central and lower Yangtze, where most of the basin’s aquaculture takes place, is home to over 1,600 aquatic animal species including the critically endangered Yangtze finless porpoise.

As part of our work with the HSBC Water Programme, we adopted several approaches to address the challenges posed by the booming aquaculture sector. We sought to remedy the lack of adequate standards for aquaculture by developing and promoting (through pilot projects and training programmes) a series of integrated practices and standards for aquaculture, taking water quality and environmental impacts into account. We also started developing traceability and certification for fisheries and connecting producers with retailers and consumers.

Read the case study (2016) PDF