Tainan Milkfish Farmer Paves the Way for Sustainable Aquaculture

Tainan Milkfish Farmer Paves the Way for Sustainable Aquaculture
Photo Credit: Corbis/達志影像

Translated and compiled by Yuan-ling Liang

As countries around the world look to aquafarming to offset pillaged wild fish stocks, one Taiwanese milkfish farmer has paved the way in eco-friendly fish production.

According to a report released this month by Canada-headquartered International Institute for Sustainable Development, certified seafood production has grown rapidly in the past decade. It now accounts for almost 15% of global fish production, up from 0.5% in 2005

Demand for sustainable seafood is being driven by Japan, North America and Europe. The certified aquaculture industry, while still considered to be in its early stages, is expected to dominate growth in certified seafood for the foreseeable future, the report says.

Milkfish aquafarming is typically a profitable export industry for Taiwan, although output can be unstable. The fish is prone to germs and viruses, and farms struggle to maintain their yield in extreme temperatures. Most farms use various chemicals in fish feed to limit disease and boost production.

However, Huang Guo-liang, a milkfish farmer in Taiwan’s southwest coast, insists on producing organic fish, without using chemicals.

BuzzOrange reports, amid soaring temperatures in the summer of 2013, more than 8000 milkfish died at Huang’s farm at Beimen, Tainan. The lost sales cost more than NT$2 million (approximately US$61175).

At the time, Huang’s father went so far as buying non-organic fish feed to help stem the problem. But Huang refused to use it.

Huang was previously the CEO of an LED company in China. After seven years in that role, he was diagnosed with cancer. While he beat the illness, he also realized the importance of health and environmental issues, about five years ago he returned to Taiwan to help run his family’s fish farming business.

Despite many early failures, Huang has succeeded in operating the farm with sustainable fishing methods. He grows purslane, a grass, to help maintain proper nutrient-levels around the farm. He feeds the fish with only natural materials. He also suspends farming for three months each year, to maintain the environment’s nutrient levels.

In 2006, the EU’s Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) set up a certification system with Taiwan to examine the quality of Taiwanese farmed seafood. In 2012, Huang’s operation was certified, meaning Huang’s fish meets the standard for seafood safety. By obtaining this export certification for farming, his fish could be exported to the EU.

Huang says that while his fishing practices are simple and small-scale, he still believes the market can be expanded if Taiwanese farmers work together. “We should improve the quality instead of quantity of our fish farming industry.” [Quote translated]

Eco-friendly aquaculture: key to sustainable fishery

From 1950 to 2003, the world’s wild fish stocks fell 90% and catches in the tropics are expected to decline a further 40% by 2050. As wild fish stocks decline rapidly, farmed fish is believed to have the potential to help offset the loss.

According to the World Bank’s statistics, global aquaculture production has increased sharply in recent years. Currently, the world farms more fish than it catches.

However, fish farms encounter several challenges related to ecosystem destruction, feedstock sustainability, chemical inputs and waste management. According to research, farmed sites appear to have less biodiversity and more water pollution. Awareness of eco-friendly fish farming methods has therefore lifted globally.

[Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Huang’s farm had been certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council. The error, which occurred because of a mistranslation, has since been corrected and is regretted.]

Edited by Edward White



M COA [Taiwan Government]

FA COA [Taiwan Government]

National Geographic: Big-Fish Stocks Fall 90 Percent Since 1950, Study Says

BBC Future: How the world’s oceans could be running out of fish

State of Sustainability Initiatives Review: Standards and the Blue Economy

CBC News: Environment Canada study finds land-based fish farms affecting ecosystem

Bloomberg: Eco-Friendly Fish Farming: Bloomberg Brink