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Peak Fish: The Massive Growth of Aquaculture in China

The world's eating more and more fish. And nowhere is the rise of fish farming more apparent than in China.

Whether you're eating tuna fish sandwiches or considering the fate of the Western diet, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization's State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2010 report might have some surprising insights into the way the world eats.

With an estimated one-third of wild fish stocks on the decline and more people eating more fish—about 37 pounds per person per year, or enough to equal the human weight of China—the FAO's authors say that we may have reached a sort of Peak Fish, which means more people are turning to fish farming.

It's the fastest growing segment of animal food production, the report says, although, as you can see in the chart below, fish (the medium gray bar) only accounts for 16 percent of the total animal protein the world currently eats (the six bars on the far left). In North America, we get a lot more protein from meat (black bar) and dairy (white bar) than from fish.

Nowhere is the growth of fish farming more apparent than in China, which has 62 percent of world's farmed fish. In the middle graph below, the massive growth of Chinese aquaculture (dark blue) dwarfs the amount caught in the wild (light blue).

China’s aquaculture production has already outpaced Europe and the United States, and the country even grows more catfish, white leg shrimp, and largemouth black bass—all species that were introduced by way of America—than we do.

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