Earlier this month, I went on SFP’s behalf to attend the 2016 China Fisheries and Seafood Expo, held at the Qingdao International Expo Center in Qingdao, China. We’ve been curious for some time as to the seafood trade show climate in China, and I was only too happy to check this show out and report back.

I’m told this is one of the better shows to attend in China, in one of the better locations. Yes, there’s Seafood Expo Asia, put on every year by Diversified Communications, the company that runs both Seafood Expo North America in Boston and Seafood Expo Global in Brussels, but the Asia show is in Hong Kong, and we were curious about the mainland. China Fisheries puts on a large show, too, but we thought that might be a little overwhelming.

The expo in Qingdao seems to be a “happy medium,” if you will. Qingdao itself, like many coastal cities, has strong fishing and seafood traditions, with a history that’s measured in millennia rather than centuries. It seems that, together with tourism, seafood remains among the city’s largest industries.

The expo was a good size, with exhibitors filling eight of the venue’s 10 available halls. I’m told there were 1,500 exhibitors and more than 25,000 attendees. I expected a large contingent of Chinese companies, and they certainly were on full display, but there was plenty of room for non-Chinese companies. Other ASEAN nations were represented, and by far the show-stealer was Russia. I’m told this was the first time they’ve exhibited at the show, and they didn’t do it small. I don’t know how many companies occupied the pavilion, but they took up about 1,000 square meters and stretched almost to the ceiling. They staffed the booths with helpful people who spoke multiple languages, including excellent English, and made use of high-tech displays and touchscreens to show off their products. There was plenty of room for Western nations, however. I saw impressive pavilions for companies from Canada, the US, Central and South America, and companies from Europe.

It was a lonely event for an NGO, though – I only saw three booths, but my impression is this is more reflective of the difficulties NGOs have gaining traction in the Chinese seafood industry overall than a reflection on the expo. Organizers told me they’d welcome other NGOs in the coming years, and I saw no signs that anyone at the show had a problem with NGOs. Indeed, their booths had quite a bit of traffic from what I could see.

The expo used to have a conference program once upon a time, but that’s been split off into a separate event, the Sustainable Seafood Forum. The expo still has presentations and discussions on various industry-related topics, but the schedule referred to them as “seminars.” Basically, there were a number of events, and not all of them in English, so it was tough for me to truly evaluate them, but what I saw seemed interesting.

Overall, the China Fisheries and Seafood Expo is a strong event with a truly global feel. Naturally, the Chinese companies took center stage, but not to the point where they were drowning out everyone else. The venue was large but organized, with large pavilions that were easy to pick out. If you’re looking for a glimpse into the state of the Asian markets, this is the place!