Chinese Tilapia
Aquaculture Improvement Partnership

Last Update: March 2014
 

Species: Oreochromis spp., including:
tilapia nilotica (O. niloticus)
tilapia Mozambique (O. mossambicus)
red tilapia (a group of tilapia hybrids with one collective common name)
 
AIP Region:
Hainan Island, China

SFP conducted AIP scoping in three targeted tilapia-producing regions, starting with the AIP located on Hainan Island.   See below for map of production regions.  

 

Contact: If you would like more information about the AIP or wish to support the AIP, please contact SFP. 

Sustainability Information:
 
NGOs generally rank Chinese farmed tilapia poorly, but a notable improvement in the rating of pond-farmed Chinese tilapia was found lately:
a.    Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBAq SeafoodWatch - Chinese tilapia) ranks farmed tilapia from China yellow (Good Alternative)
as updated from the previous rating as red (Avoid) 
b.    Blue Ocean Institute (BOI Seafood Guide) ranks Chinese farmed tilapia orange (farming methods typically have large environmental impact)
 
Date Publicly Announced: 2011
 
Background:
 
China is the world’s leading tilapia producer, with approximately 1.40 million tonnes of production and 403,600 tonnes of export in 2013 (China Customs) . Despite a slight drop in global share from 42 percent in 2010 to 38 percent of total production in 2012, China has remained the largest tilapia producer over the past decades. In only 10 years, tilapia yields in China have increased from only 600 thousand tonnes in 2000 to over 1.3 million tonnes in 2010.  China has four provincial regions producing tilapia, of which Guangdong province represents 48 percent of the total production. Hainan, a tropical island in the South China Sea, was the largest exporting province in 2011, and continues to lead in exports to the European Union (>47%). The United States has been the largest export market for Chinese tilapia, while the market share has decreased from over 50 percent before 2008 to approximately 42 percent of total exports in 2013. 
 
 
Chinese Aquatic Product Processing & Marketing Alliance (CAPPMA)
 
In the US, tilapia currently ranks fourth in popularity with consumers, with per capita consumption (edible weight) of 1.45 pounds (0.66 kg) in 2010. US imports of Chinese tilapia totaled 168 thousand tonnes imported in 2013, including 144 thousand tonnes of frozen fillets worth $644 million and 24 thousand tonnes of whole frozen tilapia worth $47 million. In 2013, China supplied approximately 74 percent of all tilapia (fresh and frozen) imported into the United States.
 
AIP Progress Update

2007

SFP involvement in China began at the end of 2007, when SFP advised key corporate partners on their tilapia procurement policy and sourcing, evaluating sources in Hainan (seven farms) and Beihai (two farms). SFP’s corporate partner engagement includes both major tilapia suppliers and key retail and foodservice buyers.
 
2008 – 2010
 
From 2008 to 2010, SFP conducted audits on 10 tilapia farms in six countries, comparing the three main international standards: GLOBALG.A.P, Global Agriculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices (GAA/BAP), and the International Standard for Responsible Tilapia Aquaculture developed by the World Wildlife Fund (ASC/ISRTA). The objective of these audits was to identify similarities in criteria and areas where the standards differed. The benchmarking project included four tilapia farms in China. These farms represented both small- and commercial-scale production facilities utilizing two different production systems (pond and cages). Aside from identifying similarities and differences among criteria and requirements used by the three standards, this project also identified outstanding issues in the farms, which most producers were able to address as a result of the trial audit. To date, all four farms are now certified under one or more of the commercial aquaculture standards.
 
2011
 
Since early 2011, SFP has initiated a Chinese Tilapia AIP by conducting a series of scoping studies to have an in-depth understanding of the Chinese tilapia supply chain and its challenges as it moves toward sustainable development. The studies, along with multi-stakeholder engagement through the Aquaculture Policy Roundtable (APR), have enabled SFP outstanding capacity to motivate the supply chain to adopt zonal management approaches to achieve regional improvement, hence reducing environmental and social risks along the supply chain.
 
Field research projects to assess the impact of tilapia farming on the external environment and its associated risks on disease outbreaks. Along with Hainan Institute of Aquaculture and Hainan University, SFP investigated environmental impacts of tilapia farming through measuring water quality within and outside farming systems (pond and reservoir). The first phase of the study monitored five representative commercial-scale farms in Hainan over two production cycles in 2011 (2nd phase commenced March 2013).
 
SFP is also working with producer groups (local tilapia associations) and key feed distributors along with Chinese feed companies (e.g., Haid and Tongwei) to enhance tilapia farmers' both technical and institutional capacity to further adopt collaborative measures with zonal management approaches.  Such initiative include an orientation workshop in 2011 for selected producers in Hainan on the three major tilapia standards, mentioned above, used in the comparison audits. The workshop introduced the different standards available to tilapia producers in China, particularly raising the farmer’s awareness on environmental issues. More workshops to strengthen information accessibility and to disseminate Best Practices are under preparation with potential support from feed companies and processors. 
 
2012
 
On September 4, 2012, SFP successfully organized its first Aquaculture Policy Roundtable (APR) in Hainan to engage key tilapia processors, farmers, and feed and seed producers in Hainan Province, the largest tilapia production region in China, into an AIP. This roundtable provided face-to-face communication between tilapia producers in China and buyers from North America, and established a roadmap for SFP’s Chinese Tilapia AIP to pilot its zonal management approach in Hainan. 
 
The roundtable achieved agreement among participants to establish a Hainan Tilapia Sustainability Alliance, at which zonal management on disease control, water resource allocation and pollution elimination, biodiversity impacts, and food safety regulation will be introduced to the supply chain. A regional profile of tilapia will be established and updated in FishSource and Metrics systems to guide buyers and retailers for sustainable sourcing of tilapia. 
 
2013
 
Field research projects to assess the impact of tilapia farming on the external environment and its associated risks on disease outbreaks continued in collaboration with a local university in 2013. The study identified three farming zones within Hainan Island and assessed the impacts of existing farming practices and management on aquatic environment around nine typical farms, including both small-to-medium- and commercial-scale farms. The study aims to evaluate cumulative environmental impacts and disease risks at the zonal level.
 
In mid-June, late August, and early November 2013, SFP organized local roundtables with participation from a diverse group of stakeholders across main production regions (including Wenchang, Qionghai, and Ding’an counties). Participants included hatcheries, feed mills, feed distributors, farmers, middlemen (fish harvesters and service providers), processors, and research institutes, as well as representatives of government aquaculture extensions. At these meetings, local farmers’ groups and co-ops discussed the feasibility of establishing their own Code of Good Practices (CoGP) as a guideline to unite stakeholders’ voices and actions, setting up the foundation to build regional management for tilapia production. Foreign and domestic experts on aquaculture disease and epidemiology were invited to share their knowledge and experiences with producers. Face-to-face communication between farmers and processors was facilitated, paving the way for smoother collaboration in the future. Proposed actions will improve information sharing and data reporting across the local supply chain, and collaborative measures to control food safety and environmental impacts within the region. 
 
In November 2013, five key tilapia stakeholders (including processors, feed and seed producers, and service providers) in Hainan signed an MoU with SFP to jointly launch the Hainan Tilapia Sustainability Alliance.  The five founding member companies of the Alliance (Kingwin Aquaculture, ProGift, Sky-Blue Ocean, Xiangtai, and Tongwei) have actively worked with SFP to build the institutional structure of the Alliance, and develop technical and managerial contents of a CoGP. Details of the Alliance and its activities will be updated in the Alliance’s website to be launched in April 2014.
 
On the state level, SFP has worked closely with the national industry association, China Aquatic Product Processing and Marketing Alliance (CAPPMA). SFP has been actively involved with CAPPMA and its members in discussing sustainable development of tilapia at forums and conferences, advising key Chinese policy makers to improve their regulations and standards.  SFP assisted CAPPMA in organizing the 10th Chinese Tilapia Industry Forum, which was held in Dalian on November 6, 2013. At the forum, the zonal management approach and the multi-stakeholder dialogue under the Hainan Tilapia Sustainability Alliance was presented to a wider audience of domestic and international stakeholders.
 
2014
 
January – March
 
SFP has continued its dialogue with the Hainan Provincial Government, as well as county-level administrations, to discuss potential collaboration with public agencies in key production regions.
 
Working with the five founding members of the Hainan Tilapia Sustainability Alliance, SFP has developed a workplan for 2014, which identifies priorities on farmers’ training on water management and institutional capacity building for regional collaboration.
 
Field research on regional environmental impact assessment and disease risks evaluation has been conducted. All field data were processed and analyzed, and the final reports have been developed. Key findings and summary reports were shared with local stakeholders at some workshops. Detailed full reports will be available to the public on the Alliance’s website (under development and expected to be online in April 2014).
 
At the Seafood North America exhibition in Boston, SFP convened a Supplier Roundtable meeting to share progress with the AIP and strengthen supply chain engagement with the AIP.