Food and Fertilizer Technology Center - publications

Mar. 12, 2008

The Experience and Development of Responsible and Eco-Friendly Aquaculture Production Practices for Food Safety and Traceability in Taiwan

Aquaculture - the &Quot;New Industry&Quot; in the Next 50 Years

The awareness of environmental conservation, food security, and global greenhouse effect has been the key factors in the changes in the development of the world fisheries and seafood communities. It has been well-documented that catches from the sea were not able to increase due to the reduced quotas across open seas, limited fishing periods and areas, and increased license fees. A recent article published by the journal Science showed that the state of global fishing stocks is in accelerating severe decline and the world's marine species will collapse by 2048 because of overfishing, pollution, habitat loss and climate change (Worm et al. 2006). Thus, aquaculture plays an important role in supplying fish demanded by the increasing population and has become one of the main sources of the animal proteins.

Drucker (2002) predicted that "biotechnology" and "aquaculture" will be the "new industry" in the next 50 years. He used salmon as an example to describe the relationship between wild catch and fish farming products. He also believed that new and different species will be developed in fish farming besides salmon. Thus, aquaculture or fish farming is filling the growing demand for seafood and will be providing animal protein to human beings in the future.

During the last three decades, Taiwan's aquaculture industry has developed rapidly due to the combined efforts of aquafarmers, investors, and experts from academia and research institutes. Taiwan has gained worldwide reputation in aquaculture technologies and has made tremendous contributions to fisheries production and value. To meet the challenges of increasing trend toward globalization, food safety, and environmental conservation, Taiwan's aquaculture industry has to prepare to enter an era of restructuring and increasing concern for sustainability (Chiang et al. 2001). The experience from Taiwan could be an example to the other countries.

This paper describes how Taiwan develops responsible and eco-friendly fish farming practices to meet the global trends on food safety and traceability. Firstly, this paper presents an overview of the global fisheries production with a focus on aquaculture, which provides an understanding of the role of aquaculture in the human food supply in the future. Secondly, this paper describes the current status of Taiwan's aquaculture sector. Then, several indicators will be used to demonstrate the recent developments in responsible and eco-friendly aquaculture production practices to enhance aquaculture foods' safety and traceability in Taiwan. Finally, an outlook of fish farming industry will be presented.

Overview of Global Fisheries Production

The changing trends in capture fisheries worldwide include: 1) depletion of many fish stocks in the marine resources; 2) serious problems of overfishing and by-catch; and 3) formal and legal changes relating to the implementation of several international laws. A study from Worm et al. (2006) supports one of the above statements. Worm et al. found that more than 2,200 commercially fished species worldwide had collapsed by 2003, only six in 1950. Due to the increase in population and changes in food consumption patterns, consumption of fisheries products has increased. Because of the general over-exploitation of wild aquatic organisms, the food supply from capture fisheries will probably decline; and the yields from aquaculture are increasing as a result of the progress of aquaculture technologies and their adoption.

The aquaculture industry can provide consumers with high quality, safe and affordable seafood and thereby reduce pressure on wild stocks and help their recoveries. Aquaculture can also make great contributions to regional economy by providing employment and business. Based on the importance of small-scale socially-oriented aquaculture and changes in market characteristics, the aquaculture sector should continue to develop toward its full potential, forming a sustainable industry in a responsible manner (FAO 2000). In general, the global trends in aquaculture are: 1) rapid growth in aquaculture production; 2) farmed fish has become an important food supply; 3) aquaculture contributes to the economy in terms of employment and business; 4) aquaculture development is maximizing its full potential contribution; 5) it has become an environmentally responsible and socially acceptable industry; and 6) increased quality and safety toward a sustainable industry.

Fig. 1 shows the global fisheries production in the last 35 years. The world's wild capture production increased from about 64 million MT in 1970 to 96 million MT in 2004 (FAO, 2006). During the same period, the fish farming production worldwide increased significantly from 4 million MT to 59 million MT. This rapid growth in aquaculture production has made the sector important to the food supply and to the economies of many developing countries. Fig. 2 shows the increasing trends of global aquaculture production from 1990 to 2004. It is reasonably expected that the ratio of aquaculture products to world fishery products could increase to 40% from 29% before 2010.

Current Status of Taiwan's Aquaculture Sector

In addition to distant-water fisheries, Taiwan has gained worldwide reputation in aquaculture technologies. In 2005, Taiwan fisheries production was about 1.31 million MT, including 752,118 MT of deep-sea fisheries, 254,625 MT of inshore and coastal fisheries, and 307,352 MT of aquaculture products. The exported and imported aquatic products were 650,477 MT and 381,968 MT, respectively (Fisheries Agency, 2006). Taiwan's aquaculture products accounted for about 23% of the total fishery production in 2005. In 2005, the total value of aquaculture products was NT$31.3 billion (or US$948 million), or 34% of total fishery revenues in Taiwan. The major species of aquaculture products are tilapia, milkfish, eel, hard clam, oyster, freshwater clam, and shrimp.

There are three major types of aquaculture in Taiwan, namely, fresh water pond aquaculture, brackish water pond aquaculture, and marine culture. The total acreage of these three types of aquaculture is approximately 56,000 hectares. Located in the subtropical region, the environment of Taiwan is suitable for the aquatic breeding. With the research and improvement of artificial propagation techniques and improved fish farming technologies, nearly 100 aquatic species can now be farmed in Taiwan. In the fresh water fish farming, major species are tilapia, eel, carps, giant freshwater prawn, and freshwater clams, etc. In brackish water ponds, sea bream, milkfish, grouper, sea bass, tiger prawn, and white-leg shrimp are commonly farmed in Taiwan. In the inshore farming, the main species farmed are oyster, hard clam, and small abalone. Cobia, sea breams, groupers, and yellowtail are the main species in offshore farming. In 2005, the total aquaculture production was 307,352 MT which included 172,903 MT of inland freshwater pond culture, 94,766 MT of brackish water pond culture, and 34,922 MT of marine culture (Fisheries Agency, 2006).

Recent Developments in Responsible and Eco-Friendly Aquaculture Production Practices in Taiwan

Taiwan's seafood industry realizes that high quality product, safety and sanitation are basic business practices to maintain the sustainable growth of an industry. Thus, Taiwan's future aquaculture development is committed to be eco-responsible and consumer/market-oriented aquaculture to comply with the trend of an era of restructuring and increasing concern for sustainability. Three principles are formed to fulfill the objectives. Developments are focused on: 1) potentially competitive species or livelihood widely related species such as fish fries, ornamental fishes, marine cage culture, and recreation aquafarm; 2) environment which is socially responsible and acceptable, e.g., code of fish farming practices; and 3) improving industry by forming an alliance among producers, suppliers, processors, and academics. Specific plans includes: 1) to form specific aquaculture areas; 2) to build infrastructure; 3) to have joint procurement; 4) to form fishermen's organizations via a strategic partnership to get common consensus and to conduct promotional programs; 5) to grant research programs; and 6) to form the aquaculture act.

Regarding responsible and eco-friendly aquaculture production practices, the contents of the code of practices for fish farming including food safety, design and construct farms, feed and feed use, general pond operation, health management, therapeutic agents and other chemicals, effluents and solid wastes, community and employee relations, and conservation of biodiversity are proposed to enhance the Good Aquaculture Practices (GAP) in Taiwan. The Council of Agriculture (COA) in Taiwan announced the regulations of the GAP in January 2004 to process the certifications of the farms in the aquaculture sector. The Taiwan Tilapia Alliance also launched a program to set up three "tilapia production zone exclusively for exports" to implement the GAP starting in February 2004. Further, the Alliance is launching a "Taiwan Tilapia ID Project" to set up the model of traceability on tilapia fillet products in April 2005. Each fillet will be labelled with a trace code and information about the farmer on the vacuum pack. Consumers can obtain the information pertaining to the farmer and processor using the trace code from the web site of the Alliance.

In addition to implementing the GAP, a traceability system is implemented for all agricultural and fisheries products in Taiwan. The system follows the EU format and standards. A global location number (GLN) is assigned to each individual fish farmer. Farmers keep production records periodically about their production activities as well as pond managements. Production records are stored in networked computers. Consumers can trace the fish products with trace codes using computer or mobile phone.

A Taiwanese delegation visited the Laboratoire d'Etudes et de Recherches sur les Médicaments Vétérinaires et Désinfectants (AFSSA-LMV-CRL) in Fougeres and the School for Advanced Residue Analysis in Food (LABERCA) in Nantes, France in November 2004 to exchange information and experience on drug residue analysis. The visit was very helpful to the Taiwanese tilapia farming and processing sectors in gaining updated information about the new developments in the drug analysis. In addition, the alliance hosted three training courses during May-June 2006 by inviting EU experts as lecturers to provide a high level of expertise in the field of residues and contaminants in food in Taiwan to: 1) improve knowledge regarding general regulation of residues and contaminants in food, and discuss the expectations of the EU regarding importation of food products from third countries, especially on forbidden veterinary drugs; 2) describe the fit-for-purpose analytical methodologies used to survey residues and contaminants in food; and 3) train participants both on screening technique (ELISA, RIA, and hyphenated methodologies especially those based on gas and liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry.

Outlook of the Fish Farming Industry

The flesh textures of medium/large fishes are different from those of small fishes. The ways of utilizing and preparing these fishes for consumption are different. Therefore, the markets are segmented by medium/large species and small type species. Recently, due to the decline of migratory fisheries resources with medium/large size, such as tuna, tuna-like, toothfish, etc., the catches for those species are limited (Joseph, 2003). Since the supply from capture fisheries has decreased, there is a need to find their substitutes. Aquaculture of medium/large species becomes the goal of aquaculture sector endeavors. Aquaculture for medium/large species is difficult, because problems related to facilities, fry, technology, feed, management, disease, or cost, have to be solved. Many countries have been working on these problems for a long period of time. There have been some success cases, but only the salmon culture has expanded substantially and becomes a significant industry in the international market (Hu and Chiang 2003).

The development of any aquaculture species relies on its environment, technology, costs, influence upon local community, acceptance by consumers in terms of meat texture, quality, price, and convenience. Having the aforementioned conditions, farmed fishes, such as tilapia and cobia, are expected to develop to satisfy the market demand in the near future.

Take tilapia as an example. Nowadays, it has become one of the important protein sources for many developing countries. However, because tilapia can adapt easily to new environments and needs few technical requirement for aquaculture, many new countries have entered the market and the competition for tilapia export market is keener than ever. Under this global trend, exporting countries should rapidly develop their own strength so that their competitiveness could be strengthened. In addition, it is necessary to focus on the following points:

  • 1) Increasing production and trade;
  • 2) Great development potentials in Africa, Central and South America;
  • 3) Sustainable fish farming management;
  • 4) Stricter food safety standards;
  • 5) Fast developments of genetically modified (GM) fish and fish products; and
  • 6) Taiwan's experience could be a key factor in helping the worldwide aquaculture development.


Drucker (2002) predicted that aquaculture and biotechnology will be the new industry in the next 50 years. Consequently, four important issues are necessary for this: 1) aquaculture will become the main source of animal proteins; 2) new value-added farmed fish products will be introduced to replace wild fishes; 3) genetically modified techniques will apply on fries and feeds; and 4) issue of consumer acceptance toward GM fish and fish products will become an important evaluation (Chiang et al. 2002b).

Responsible and eco-friendly aquaculture production practices are the only way to ensure aquaculture foods' safety and traceability and the sustainability of the fish farming sector from now on. GAP or best aquaculture practices are the effective tool to start with.


Index of Images

  • Figure 1 Global Fisheries Production, 1970-2004.

    Figure 1 Global Fisheries Production, 1970-2004.

  • Figure 2 Global aquaculture production, 1990-2004.

    Figure 2 Global aquaculture production, 1990-2004.

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