Aquaculture Development in China

At about 460 BC, Fanli in China wrote a book called “pisciculture”, which was the first literature of fish farming in the world appeared. In this book, Fanli recorded the pond culture environment, breeding and rearing method of common carp. In Han Dynasty (206-265 BC), the construction of fishpond was gradually perfected. According to the historical materials, during this period, paddy field fish culture appeared in Pi County of Sichuan Province.

In Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), the ruling class believed that the common carp was a kind of holy fish, so killing common carp was forbidden. As a result, the common carp culture declined. On the other hand, silver carp, bighead, grass carp and black carp culture initiated by capturing fries from rivers. People also began to culture grass carp in paddy field and beneficial for both rice and fish. In Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), the fishermen caught fries of Chinese major carps in Jiujiang area of Jiangxi Province. There were some materials that recorded the food habit and nursing of Chinese major carps in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province. Besides the edible fishes, the ornamental golden crucian carp (the predecessor of golden fish) was cultured in Nanping mountain area of Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. People also summarized a lot of methods to treat the fish diseases. For example, people recorded, “If you find some white spots on the fish body, you can put the maple barks into the water, and then the fish disease can be cured.” In Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD), freshwater aquaculture technique developed a lot. The details of fishpond construction, species selection, stocking density, feeding and disease prevention were recorded in the literature. Around 1537 AD, fish culture in river way appeared in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province. In Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD), people produced the seedling of Chinese major carps in Xijiang, and recorded the details of fish-casting methods in Guangxi and Guangdong Province. In addition, there are also some materials recording the fry capture, transportation and cultivation method in Jiujiang, Jiangxi Province and culture of Chinese breams and mud carp.

During 1912 to 1949, the period of Republic of China, Prof. Chen Zhen made a systematic study on golden fish in 1925 and created a new variety. More than 70 varieties of golden fish were fostered in China till 1935. In 1931, Journal of Chinese Fisheries started publication. After that, Journal of Oriental Fisheries started publication in 1948. In 1932, Lin Suyan found a colored fish in a brook of White Cloud Mountain in Guangzhou and gave the name Tang fish. It’s the first kind of tropic ornamental fish found in China and transplanted oversea afterwards. In 1949, the People’s Republic of China established. After that, a new era of freshwater fisheries initiated in 1958 after success of induced breeding of Chinese four major carps. In 1960, the Eight-word Principle for intensive aquaculture was summarized which became the technological core of pond culture. In 1967, the productive breakthrough of prawn artificial breeding technology made the new era of marine aquaculture. Eleven years later, the productive breakthrough of river crab artificial breeding technology in 1978 promoted development of Chinese river crab culture. Since 1980’s, the researchers have made great progresses in breeding, culture, disease prevention, resource evaluation, biotechnology, information technology and so on. The culture structure regulation has improved and the number of famous and valued species increased 20%.

Modern aquaculture development in China could be divided to several phases, i.e.: 1) starting phase in 1978-1984, 2) speeding development in 1985-1995, 3) structure adjustment in 1996-2000, 4) dominance species in 2001-2007, and 5) fishery modernization in 2008-2010. The fishery and aquaculture science and technology progress exerts the leading and promoting action to the development of Chinese fishery. The support of science and technology including: artificial breeding of carps (1950’s to 60’s), Kelp natural light seed culture and southward transfer (1960’s to 70’s), artificial breeding of scallop (1970’s), utilization of aeration on aquaculture (1970’s to 80’s), river crab artificial breeding technology (1978), shrimp artificial breeding technology (1980’s), high-yield technology for large scale fish ponds (1980’s to 90’s), Jian carp culture technology and extension (1980’s to 90’s), artificial breeding with biotechnology (1990’s), tilapia selective breeding and all-male production (1990’s to 2000’s), European eel culture (1990’s), sturgeon culture and all-induced breeding technology (since 1995), development and application of marine proteinase (since 1995), introduction and seed production technology of turbot (since 1995), green fish drug and vaccine (since 1995), fish farming technology in salty and alkali ponds (since 1995) and low cost anti-wave net-cage (1995).

Since 1990, China has been the top fish producer in the world. In 2008, fishery production reached 48 million tons, made up about 1/3 of the world total. Up to 70% of the total production was aquaculture production, 34 million tons, made up about 2/3 of the world total aquaculture production. Inland aquaculture contributed around 20.7 million tons and marine aquaculture shared around 13.4 million tons. Up to 70% of inland aquaculture production, 14.45 million tons, originated from 7 conventional freshwater species, i.e. grass carp, silver carp, bighead carp, common carp, crucian carp, wuchang carp and black carp.

China has been the world’s largest exporter of fish and fishery products and listed in No.1 among main agricultural products for continuum 9 years. In the last few years, it has further consolidated its leading position. In 2008, total import and export of fish and fishery products was 6.85 million tons (export: 2.97 million tons and import: 2.88 million tons) (Picture 3). Key export species including: shrimp (17.9%), shellfish (14.6%), tilapia (10.9%), eel (9.1%), freshwater crayfish (2.3%), yellow croaker (2.1%) and channel catfish (1.1%).

The fishery development in the last 20 years attracts almost 10 million labors and 70% of them are engaged in aquaculture. Furthermore, the development of aquaculture drives the development of relevant industries such as aquatic products storage, processing, transportation, marketing, seed breeding, feeds and fishery drug. The per capita incoming of the fishers increased from 626 Yuan in 1985 to 8.000 Yuan in 2009.

1 thought on “Aquaculture Development in China

  1. I enjoyed this article on several levels. Being interested in Asian culture, and currently reading a history of China (J Keay) this adds further depth. Also, I’m a commercial fisherman (Bering Sea longliner) I found the statistics of Chinas export of fish, amazing, facts I had not known.

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