Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

2. Historical development

There are several approaches to analysing historical development of a given sector. One approach consists of following technological development paths. Because technological advances or declines are often a result of government policies, this chapter describes the history of aquaculture development in China by following the path of macro-economic policy changes in the country. From a policy perspective, aquaculture development in China can be divided into three main phases: the pre-1949, the 1949-1978 period and the after-1978 period. Each of these three phases is discussed in this chapter by covering only non-policy aspects of the aquaculture development route. As discussed in the introductory chapter, policies will be discussed in a separate chapter.

2.1 The pre-1949 period

Historical records show that China was growing fish as early as 1100 BC. Common carp (Cyprinus carpio), a freshwater fish, was the first cultured species. Farming was carried out in earthen ponds. During the Tang dynasty (618-917 AD), the cultured species were extended from common carp (C. carpio) to silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix), big-head carp (Aristichthys nobilis), grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idellus), black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus) and to mud carp (Cirrhina molitorella). Except for C. molitorella which was found in the Pearl River, seeds from all these species were collected from the Yangtze River. Later in the Song dynasty (960-1279 AD), farmers found along these two rivers collected fingerlings of these species from the wild and successfully transported them to distant areas for farming.

Oyster-farming was recorded as early as the Han dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD). Marine aquaculture and milkfish culture became popular aquaculture activities during the Ming dynasty, especially in Taiwan Province (Zheng Hongtu; Ye Li Kao, 1600).

Aquaculture development in these early days seemed to have been prompted mainly by eating habits, and consolidated by research. In the Ming dynasty, Xu Guangqi (1639 AD) recorded the methods of freshwater fish farming and prevention of fish diseases. Tu Benjun described about 200 species of marine animals, comprising among others crustaceans, shellfish, finfish and other economically important aquatic animals. A book on mullet farming which was written in the same period recorded the first account on farming of a marine species at that time. Emphasis of researchers on economically important fish species are perhaps an indication that aquaculture development was also driven by economic reasons.

In spite of its dependence on the wild for seed supply, aquaculture continued to be an important enterprise for many households throughout the years, which led to the widespread expansion and establishment of fish farming as it is seen in the country today.

2.2 The 1949-1978 period

Pond fish farming of freshwater fish species continued to dominate aquaculture between 1949 and 1978. However, the steady expansion of aquaculture in the previous period, slowed down in the early 20th century. The demand for fish seeds was higher than could be supplied from the wild. Until the early 1950s, most carps, the main aquaculture species farmed[1], would not spawn in captivity (fish ponds). This problem greatly restricted aquaculture output and development.

The growing shortage of fish seeds prompted the Government to mobilize and organize its scientists to look for means of easing the constraint. The Government’s ultimate primary goal was to contribute to meeting animal protein needs of its then growing population in inland areas through expansion of aquaculture output. Researchers emphasized the techniques of controlling fish seed supply instead of depending on the course of the nature. In 1958, they succeeded in the artificial spawning of the big-head carp (A. nobilis), silver carp (H. molitrix) and white bream (Parabramis pekinensis). This was the first time in history that a fish was successfully spawned using hormones. The black carp (M. piceus) and grass carp (C. idellus) were also successfully spawned in 1960 and 1961, respectively. These achievements freed the Chinese freshwater aquaculture industry from its complete dependence on natural seeds caught from the wild and pushed the industry into a new development stage.

Following this success, the Government, through its Science Publishing House, released a 612-page canonical book entitled, "Freshwater Fish Culture in China" in 1961. This book, which was compiled by a special Committee on Freshwater Fish Farming and summarized the collective experiences of freshwater fish farming in China, laid the foundation for sustainable and intensive culture of freshwater fishes in the country. In 1962, three billion fry of big-head carp (A. nobilis), black carp (M. piceus), grass carp (C. idellus) and silver carp (H. molitrix) were produced in ponds. This rapid development in fry production underscores the impact of government policies in research, technology development and information dissemination on the development of China’s freshwater aquaculture.

Freshwater fish farming developed simultaneously with brackishwater farming and marine aquaculture. The main marine organisms farmed in this period included a variety of seaweed, shellfish, crustaceans, oysters and echinodermata. Before l950, there were eleven species or species groups, including four seaweed, five mollusc, one shrimp and one fish species which were cultivated by using traditional methods. From 1950, the new Government of the People’s Republic of China paid greater attention to science and technology of marine organisms. Marine biologists were mobilized to develop scientific marine aquaculture. The Government financed basic and applied studies on some seaweed species such as the Japanese ke1p (Laminaria japonica) and the purple laver (Porphyra tenera). The main goal was to earn foreign exchange, through export. Foreign currency was essential for the purchase of capital goods needed to rebuild the economy; the country had just emerged from foreign domination.

Government policies to support research and development paid off. The government sponsored studies led, in particular, to the understanding of the origin of the spores involved in kelp (L. japonica) cultivation and the life history of the purple laver (P. tenera). They also resulted in major breakthroughs in the successful cultivation of the Japanese kelp (L. japonica) in the 1950s and the purple laver (P. tenera) in the 1960s. Both of these seaweeds have become the pillars for a successful marine aquaculture industry of China. In 1950, mariculture production was estimated at 10 000 tonnes. Thirty three years later, in 1983, the output reached 545 000 tonnes, or 54.5 times the production in 1950, which is equivalent to an annual average growth rate of about 16 percent. A noticeable jump in production was recorded from 1958 to 1959 where outputs of 84 000 tonnes and l05 000 tonnes were recorded, respectively. The sudden increase in total production was due to the high growth in the production of kelp (L. japonica) from 6 253 tonnes in 1958 to 23 886 tonnes in 1959. This difference of 17 633 tonnes in a single year resulted from government efforts to fertilize the sea and from the southward extension of kelp culture. Since then, kelp production began to show its economic importance. In 1967-1980, 50 to 60 percent of total Chinese marine aquaculture production was kelp.

Similar basic studies were also conducted on the ecology and developmental biology of the Chinese shrimp (Penaeus chinensis) with the purpose of understanding the reproduction of this species, especially. Laboratory experiments on the maturation of the shrimp to induce them to spawn under controlled conditions were successfully carried out in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. These technological advances eventually laid the foundation for the successful development of large-scale production of shrimp larvae, an essential condition for the development of shrimp aquaculture in China. Shrimp culture became another important component of the China sea farming industry.

In the same period, studies were also conducted on the biology of economically valuable molluscs, especially on the ecology, life history and larvae culture of mussels and scallops such as edible blue mussel (Mytilus edulus). Again, these biological studies played an important role in the cultivation of mussels and scallops in the 1970s and 1980s. Mussel cultivation is an important part of Chinese mariculture industry, producing over 114 500 tonnes in 1983. The development of scallop mariculture is also catching up very fast. In addition, two other molluscs, the oyster (Ostrea spp) and razor clam (Sinonovacula constricta) are traditional marine aquaculture organisms.

2.3 The post-1978 period

2.3.1 Major freshwater aquaculture farming systems, species and production technologies

A wide range of aquaculture technologies is used for different fish species and under different environmental conditions in China. Major aquaculture systems include pond culture, cage culture, pen culture, paddy-fish culture in rice fields, indoor running water systems and culture-based fisheries[2] in open waters.

Pond culture, the traditional fish farming system in China, is the most popular and most important fish farming system in the country. Major species cultivated in ponds include Chinese carps[3], common carp (C. carpio), crucian carp (Carassius auratus), mud carp (Cirrhina molitrorella), Chinese bream (Megalobrama amblyocephala), mandarin fish (Siniperca chautsi), Japanese eel (Anguilla japonica), Japanese prawn (Macrobrachium nipponensis), pearl (Hyriopsis cumingii and Cristaria plicata), river crab (Eriocheir sinsensis), soft-shelled turtle (Trionyx sinensis) and introduced exotic species such as channel catfish (Ictalurus punctutatus), tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), giant prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii), large mouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) and rainbow trout (Onchorhynchus mykiss). Production technologies of these fish species are summarized in Table 1.

Unlike pond culture, pen and cage culture were introduced into China from Southeast Asia in the 1980s and 1970s, respectively. In spite of their recent history, however, they have become a very effective system of boosting fish production in open waters in China. The major species and production technologies employed in pen and cage culture systems are described in Table 2.

Fish culture in rice paddy is also a traditional aquaculture practice in China. It has achieved a very fast development in recent years as a result of structural changes in traditional agriculture in China. It is now a very important aquaculture farming system in the country with important impact on rural development. Table 3 presents the major fish species and production technologies employed in rice paddy-fish culture systems.

Major freshwater pond aquaculture species and production technologies in China, 2002

Major species

Chinese carps, common carp, tilapia, Chinese bream, crucian carp, Mandarin fish, catfish, eel, prawn, crab, pearl, mud carp, soft-shelled turtle


Land- based

Main physical inputs

Seed, feed, drugs and chemicals, fuel and power, fertilisers, labour

Stocking pattern

Polyculture or monoculture, low to high density

Managerial inputs

Controlled stocking (size, quality and density), scientific feeding (quality, quantity and timing), fertilization, water quality management and disease prevention and treatment

Major freshwater pen and cage aquaculture species and production technologies in China, 2002

Culture system



Major species

Grass carp, common carp, tilapia, Chinese bream, crucian carp, Mandarin fish, catfish, prawn

Chinese carps, common carp, Chinese bream, crucian carp, Mandarin fish, catfish, crab


Rivers, reservoirs and lakes

Lakes and shallow reservoirs

Main physical inputs

Seed, feed, labour

Seed, feed, drug and chemical, labour

Stocking pattern

Monoculture dominant some- times polyculture or high density

Polyculture, moderate density

Managerial inputs

Good site selection, cage design, controlled stocking (size, quality and density), scientific feeding (quality, quantity and timing), disease prevention and treatment, prevention of escapes

Good site selection, construction of fish pen, controlled stocking (size, quality and density), scientific feeding (quality, quantity and timing), disease prevention and treatment, prevention of escapes and effective harvesting

Major freshwater aquaculture species and production technologies in rice paddy systems in China, 2002

Major species

Common carp, tilapia, Chinese bream, crucian carp, catfish, prawn, crab


Rice paddy

Main physical inputs

Seed, feed, fertilizer, fuel, power and labour

Stocking pattern

Polyculture or monoculture, low density

Managerial inputs

Good design and construction of fish trench, controlled stocking (size, quality and density), scientific feeding (quality, quantity and timing), fertilization, water quality management and control on use of pesticides

Aquaculture in indoor running water system is the aquaculture production system that is most recently introduced into China. The earliest experiment on this system was carried out in the early 1980s. It is now widely used for grow-out production of certain species, over-wintering of subtropical species and breeding of certain species. The major species and production technologies employed in this system are reported in Table 4.

Stocking of open waters in China has a history of around 40 years. Initiated in small- and medium-sized reservoirs in China in the early 1960s, it is now an effective way of improving the productivity and production of inland water bodies. Table 5 shows the major species and production technologies utilized to grow fish under this system.

2.3.2 Major marine and brackishwater aquaculture systems, species and production technologies

Marine and brackishwater culture systems in China are diverse. They vary from ponds to floating rafts, pens, cages (inshore, offshore and submerged), tunnels, indoor tanks with water recirculation, sea bottom culture, sea ranching and sea stock enhancement, depending on species cultured, natural conditions in the culture area, availability of financial support, fish farmer’s educational level and other factors.

Major freshwater aquaculture species and production technologies in indoor running water systems in China, 2002

Major species

Tilapia, eel, sturgeon, soft-shelled turtle, catfish, prawn, crab (breeding)



Main physical inputs

Seed, feed, fuel and power, chemical/drug and labour

Stocking pattern

Monoculture, high density

Managerial inputs

Good designing and construction of the system, controlled stocking (size, quality and density), scientific feeding (quality, quantity and timing), water quality management

Major freshwater aquaculture species and production technologies in culture- based fisheries systems in China, 2002

Major species

Chinese carps, common carp, crucian carp, Chinese bream


Lakes and reservoirs

Major physical inputs

Seed and labour

Stocking pattern

Polyculture, low density

Managerial inputs

Controlled stocking (size, quality and density), prevention of escapes, control of fishing activities and effective harvesting

While before 1980 the focus was on two seaweed species, namely the Japanese kelp (L. japonica) and the purple laver (P. tenera), and on the mollusc blue mussel (M. edulus) which (all the three) accounted for about 98 percent of the total marine aquaculture output, since the 1980s the Government of China has adopted and supported through research, a multi-species marine cultivation policy. Currently, in addition to the two seaweed species (Japanese kelp and the purple laver) and the edible blue blue mussel, there are other marine species which have become important. They include two shrimp species (Penaeous monodon and P. chinensis), two other mollusc species (oysters, Ostrea spp.) and razor clam (S. constricta), scallops (Argoipecten spp.), abalone (Haliotis discus hannai and H. diversidor) and fin fish such as grouper, Epinephelus spp.; sea bream, Pagrosomus spp.; flounder, Paralichthys olivaceus; turbot, Psetta maxima; and large yellow croaker, Pseudosciaena crocea. Table 6 presents the major culture systems by major species.

Of these culture systems, the floating raft culture method is especially used in kelp farming, mussels, scallops, oysters and abalone[4]. Pond culture is used mainly for shrimp; mudflat culture is used for clams and cages for fin fish.

2.3.3 Structure and organization of the industry

Business ownership

Before 1978, aquaculture businesses belonged either to the Government (state ownership) or to collectives (collective ownership). Beginning in 1978, a new government policy allows and encourages a more diverse type of ownerships in aquaculture ventures. Aquaculture ventures range from state to corporate, individual, joint venture and independent foreign ventures.

These different types of ownership vary from region to region within the country. In the southern part of China’s coastal provinces and autonomous regions including Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan, over 90 percent of the farms belong to individuals and private corporations. In some areas of the region such as Wenzhou and Taizhou in the Zhejiang province, joint ventures and cooperative ownerships account for 100 percent of aquaculture businesses. Most partners of joint ventures with foreign investors are from Taiwan Province of China.

Major marine culture systems by major species in China, 2002

Culture System




Shrimp, crab, shellfish, Gracilaria spp and fish


Floating raft

Seaweed, scallop, oyster, abalone



Laver, razor clam, hard shell clam, oyster



Abalone, shrimp


Inshore cage



Offshore cage


Commercial and trial



Small scale

Submerged cage

Abalone, fish

Small scale trial

Indoor tank with Recirculation water system

Flounder, turbot and other fish, abalone

Commercial and trial

Sea bottom and sea ranching

Abalone, Japanese scallop, giant cockle, sea cucumber, sea urchin


Sea stock enhancement

Chinese shrimp, red sea bream, flounder, large yellow croaker, mullet, jellyfish


In the northern part of China’s coastal provinces which cover Jiangsu, Shandong, Hebei and Liaoning, about 80 percent of aquaculture businesses are corporations; these were collectively owned before 1978. In Shandong province, most of the corporations have many different business interests; these can range from fishing to aquaculture, processing, construction and other non-fishery related businesses.

In the country’s inland areas, over 90 percent of freshwater fish farms are owned by individuals and run by families.

Relationship between small- and large-scale commercial farmers

Relationships between small- and large-scale producers in China fall within two categories: the strategic relationship between small-scale farmers and feed manufacturers, the system of stock cooperation and the relationship between corporations and individual farmers. In each category, they are mutually reinforcing.

Heads of large-scale companies refer to as ‘heads of dragons’. As heads, they can sign contracts with small-scale fish farms. The contracts involve capital investment, product collection, technical guidance and provision of market information to small-scale farms. Besides economic gains, large-scale companies gain community support in return to these services. Community support is an essential ingredient for the sustainability of their enterprises.

Small-scale farmers also get support from aquaculture supporting industries. Some large-scale feed manufacturers and/or chemical companies hold regular as well as ad hoc training courses on aquaculture techniques, introduction of new species, fish health management, water quality control and other fish farming topics. Both the feed manufacturers/chemical companies and farmers benefit from each other. On the one hand, farmers acquire the necessary knowledge and skills from the feed or chemical companies on how to increase production. On the other hand, by inciting farmers to increase output through feeding and/or fertilization, input-selling companies create demand for their products. As a result, they boost sales and, therefore, earn higher revenues.

Farm size and distribution

The size and distribution of the farms depend on the species cultured and geographical locations. In the northern part of China, especially in Shandong and Liaoning provinces, most of the marine aquaculture farms are large-scale commercial operations. They produce mainly kelp (L. japonica), flatfish (P. olivaceus), scallop (Chlamys farreri) and abalone (Haliotis discuss hannai, H. diversicolor). In the south and inland areas, small-scale farms are preponderant. They are mostly freshwater fish farms operated by family units. They are enterprises within agricultural systems such as paddy cultivation, paddy-fish culture and integrated fish farming (mulberry-silk-fish-livestock integration). There are no structured data which allow for classification of farms by size.

Organization of seed production and distribution

Because of the high demand for seeds, China has a host of hatcheries for different species.

With the exception of the eel industry (Anguilla spp.) where seeds are still collected from estuarine areas or imported from other countries such as France, most of the seeds of farmed species are supplied from hatcheries.

The hatcheries consist of well-developed bases or stations (state- and provincial-owned) that are operated by corporations, collectives or individuals. The "National Station for Aquaculture Technical Extension" is responsible for guiding breeding techniques and introducing well-bred species from one region to another. The "Fish Identification Committee", under the leadership of the "National Bureau of Fisheries", is responsible for the identification of well-bred species and the establishment of their multiplication centres. A chart which illustrates the relationships and decision pathways of the different institutions involved in seed production (via research, education and training) and distribution is shown in Appendix A.

Organization of feed production and distribution

Currently, China has about 12 000 feed mills producing various kinds of animal feeds, including fish feed. Of these, about 1 900 have a production capacity exceeding five tonnes per hour. Since the liberalization of the aquaculture sector, ownership of feed mills for aquatic animals has increasingly been diversified, though at a low pace (Table 7). The State still plays an important role in the production of feed for aquatic animals, owning slightly more than 47 percent of the mills, down from 99 percent in 1990. Domestic corporations control 47.6 percent of the mills, up from 0 percent in 1990. The contribution of joint ventures has also been increasing, although slowly. In 1999, they accounted for 3.8 percent of the feed mills for aquatic animals, compared to 0.9 percent in 1990.

Feed mills in China are managed under different government authorities. There are about 323 feed mills under the Chinese fishery authorities. These mills form the backbone of the fish feed manufacture industry in China.

Organization of markets and marketing

Packaging and processing

Aquaculture products are sold to consumers in fresh and processed forms. However, although selling fresh fish remains the most common practice, China’s reform policies have vitalized the country’s fish processing industry. Simple basic fish handling and processing technologies are being progressively replaced by the latest modern technologies to add more value to various fish products. Frozen or cold stored products become progressively important in the market, replacing the former salted (dry/wet) products. Large packages have been replaced by small packages; soft tin containers are used in lieu of glass containers; various new kinds of finished and convenient products have also since been developed to meet new market demand.

Administrative and technical linkages in aquaculture, China, 2002

In 1994, more than 1 100 kinds of processed fish and fishery products were exhibited for public view during the China National Fish Processing Exhibition held in Beijing. In 1999, there were about 6 443 companies involved in fish processing industry. Of these, 461 (7 percent) were state-owned. Three years before, in 1996, the Government owned about 20 percent of processing companies. This is an indication that collectively- and privately-owned enterprises have rapidly developed under the 1978 economic reform policy. Similarly, in 1999, about 12.23 million tonnes of raw materials (unprocessed fishery output) were utilized by the processing industry, accounting for 29.7 percent of the total fish harvest in the country.

Because of the lack of specific data, especially their breakdown by sector, it is difficult to provide a detailed analysis of the Chinese fish processing in the aquaculture sector. The main activities within freshwater fish processing include cold storage (freezing), drying, smoking and canning. Cold storage is the most popular means of processing; slightly more than 52 percent of the products are processed by using the cold storage method. Table 8 gives the major processed freshwater fish products by major inland province.

Major aquaculture products processed include: eel, tilapia, seaweed (purple laver, Porphyra tenera) and health food.

China first imported eel processing equipment from Japan in 1982. Since then, more than 50 eel processing lines have been set up. Most of them are found in Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangsu, Jiangxi and Anhui provinces. More than 70 000 tonnes of baked eel are produced annually; almost all them for exports to Japan. Mainland China is now the largest supplier of eel to Japan overtaking Taiwan. Export of baked eel represents about 20 percent of the total fishery exports (about US$3.83 billion in 2000).

Tilapia is a new emerging species in China’s processing industry. Fillet is the major output from tilapia processing. Although tilapia exports, in both frozen and fresh fillet forms, reached only about US$650 000 in 1998, this introduced fish species is showing a great potential for further development. The USA is the major market for fresh filleted as well as frozen tilapia.

Absolute and relative importance of feed mills for aquatic animals by types of business ownership in China












5 956

6 352

5 640

5 586

3 988

3 656


Joint Ventures









Domestic corporations




1 038


3 680

3 671












6 018

7 081

6 845

7 630

8 035

7 710










Joint Ventures








Domestic corporations
















1 Percentage Change = (X1999/X1990)^(1/9) - 1.
2 Annual % change is for 1992-1999.
Source: Adapted from China National Feed Industrial Statistics Yearbook, 1999

Major freshwater fish products processed by major inland province, China, 2002



















30 503

19 405


1 054


2 384


5 644


24 138

5 045

4 325

9 340


2 583


2 335


15 027

12 833








44 201

5 571

19 868

11 477


1 445


4 793


6 242 000

3 258 000

632 000

235 000

21 000

93 000

707 000









1 Include products such as seasoned products and medicines.

In 1998, China produced a total of 8 billion sheets of dried porphyra valued at 1.5 billion yuan or about US$183 million. Major production areas include Jiangsu and Fujian provinces.

Nearly 90 percent of the porphyra produce is exported.

In recent years, the Chinese health food processing industry developed rapidly in terms of variety and number of health food products marketed and production scale. At the end of 1999, 1 771 types of health food were registered with the Public Health Ministry of China. Among them, 208 were made from aquatic products. The relative significance of the most important of the 208 aquatic products is presented in Table 9.

Marketing channels

Aquaculture output is either consumed domestically or exported. Seafood trade, including aquaculture products, amounted to 19.6 million tonnes in 2000, which represents 207.2 billion Yuan (State Administration of Industry and Commerce, 2001).

The majority of freshwater aquaculture products are sold via the distribution channels described in Figure 2.

It follows from Figure 1 that for the retail market, most of the aquatic products are handled by at least two types of market operators (primary and secondary wholesalers) before reaching consumers. Producers closer to urban areas sell their fish directly to the retailers or via market intermediaries. It is estimated that at each market link from the producer to the consumer, a 10 to 20 percent profit margin is added to the price.

Relative significance of the most important aquatic products in health food in China, 2002

Product origin

Relative importance

Spirulina platensis


Fish oil


Shark bone


Cultured soft-shell turtle


Chitin products from farmed crustaceans


Cultured pearl


Shark liver oil


Farmed oyster


Other turtle species’ being cultured


Sea dog


Cultured sea horse


Farmed eel bone






Retailers include, inter alia, supermarkets and other food chains. However, although they are developing at a very rapid pace, supermarkets and other food chains are a fairly recent introduction into China. A survey of 11 food chain companies and 20 supermarkets conducted in Beijing by the Beijing Fisheries General Corporation indicated that in 1998, the average revenues from sales amounted to 904 million Yuan, of which 21.41 million Yuan came from seafood sales. As indicated in Figure 3, these findings suggest that seafood accounted for about 2.4 percent of the total sales in supermarkets and food chains. In the early 1980’s, there was no fish and fishery product sold in supermarkets and food chains; supermarkets and food chains were not introduced yet.

Distribution channels of aquaculture products in China, 2000

Percentage of seafood sales in supermarkets and food chains in Beijing, 1998

Organization of statistics collection

In China, there are two channels for statistics collection. The most important is the official (Government) channel. It includes the Bureau of Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture and State Statistical Bureau. Statistics collection under this channel follows a hierarchical, vertical chain of responsibilities, from the provincial to the grassroots level. This data collection system is periodically supplemented by a census. The goal is to cross-check and to improve the reliability of the statistics compiled; these are used by the Government in its planning exercises. Statistics can also be collected through non-government channels.

Organization of research, education, training and extension


For over 40 years of aquaculture development, comprehensive aquaculture research system has been well established in China. The system consists mainly of national fisheries research institutions which are supported by the Central Government, research institutions supported by the local governments mostly provincial and municipal, and universities. In 1999, there were 210 fisheries research institutes in the country. The number of scientific and technical professionals fully employed by the Government (Central and Local) in fisheries research and technological development (primarily aquaculture), excluding researchers in universities and production sector, was above 7 000.

Research institutions supported by the Central Government (national fisheries research institutions) are directly administrated by the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences under the Ministry of Agriculture (Figure 1). Universities fall under the administration of the Ministry of Education or Provincial Government. National research institutions and universities are the major power for aquaculture research and technological development in China. They are usually engaged in basic and applied research and technological development addressing national needs of aquaculture development.

Institutions that are supported by local government also play an important role in aquaculture research. They are more focused on solving technical problems affecting local aquaculture development. They are more producer-oriented and are sometimes quicker to respond to farmers’ needs than the other two categories. Often, they are a step ahead of national institutions and universities in practical technological advances.

Although still dominated by government institutions and universities, aquaculture research is no longer the monopoly of national fisheries institutions as was the case in the recent past. Because of the perceived aquaculture potential and current development level, aquaculture research is attracting more and more interest from the private sector. As aquaculture industry develops, non-fisheries commercial private companies are funding aquaculture research. Their main interest is in the areas of aquaculture feeds, chemicals (control of fish diseases) and breeding and culture technologies of high commercial value species. A private fisheries/aquaculture research institute has already just been established.

The establishment of private fisheries/aquaculture research institutes is expected to significantly strengthen aquaculture research and development in China.

Education and Training

The Government has recognized the vital role of capacity building including human resource development in the development of aquaculture. Thus, it has given aquaculture education and training an important place in its education programme. An effective system of aquaculture education and training has been established in China which can generally meet human resource requirements for the development of the sector. Aquaculture education, which consists of formal education and on-the-job training, is fully supported by the Central and local governments. To date, there has been no participation of the private sector.

Formal education The development of the aquaculture sector requires a large number of highly qualified scientists and professionals. Before the creation of the Shanghai Fisheries College and the suspension of high education by the Government in1952, there were one Fisheries University and three Fisheries Colleges directly under the Ministry of Agriculture. With the reform of high education in 1976, these Fisheries Universities and Colleges no longer belong to the Ministry of Agriculture; they are under the Ministry of Education. In addition, in the past two decades, most agricultural universities started to incorporate Fisheries (including aquaculture) colleges or departments as parts of their fields of education. Aquaculture has become one of the most important majors of fisheries universities, colleges or departments in China. Currently, there are about 30 universities offering undergraduate courses in China; they enrol about 1 000 undergraduate students in aquaculture annually. Both universities and research institutions offer master and doctoral degree courses in aquaculture. There are five institutions which offer doctoral degree courses and nine institutions which offer master degree courses in aquaculture and closely related areas.

Technical and vocational training There are around 20 technical secondary schools and a large number of vocational schools in China. Their main task is to produce skilled workers for aquaculture and fisheries sector. These schools were used to train farm technicians before the reform of high education system in China. The shift in the role played by these schools was motivated by the need for a comprehensive capability building rather than just on-the-job training in aquaculture. The change in policies was also due to the high cost of training all farmers.


One very important contributing factor to the development of aquaculture in China is the broad and quality Extension Service provided to farmers. Aquaculture extension service has a very long history in China. It has been strongly supported by the government since its beginning.

The General Station of National Fisheries Technical Extension (Appendix A) is the national institution which is responsible for fisheries and mainly aquaculture extension service in China. From national to township level, there are 18 462 fisheries extension stations in the country. These extension stations form a network of Aquaculture Extension Services all over the country. In 1999, the total number of fisheries (mainly aquaculture) extension workers was 45 863.

The fisheries extension service system is jointly supported by the Central and local governments. The total funding for extension service system was estimated at 384 million Yuan in 2000. Of this, about 47.8 percent were spent on personnel (salaries and other benefits); 52.2 percent were used to cover other costs. Out of the total extension budget of 384 million Yuan in 2000, local governments contributed 181.5 million Yuan, or 47.3 percent.

Fisheries extension stations provide extension services to farmers mainly in different ways: implementation and demonstration of extension programmes[5] at different levels, provision of on-farm technical services as well as assistance in buying quality seeds and other inputs.

Since recently, the Government strongly encourages research and educational institutions to work closely with the production sector. Research institutions are also encouraged to materialize their research achievements through extending their findings directly to farmers. As a result, they are often involved in national and local aquaculture extension and demonstration projects by providing technical support to farmers. Providing technical service directly to farmers is becoming an important activity of research and educational institutions, which contributes to significantly and effectively improving the dissemination of new technologies and the aquaculture output growth.

As aquaculture develops, more and more non-government institutions, especially feed and chemical companies, show interest in extension activities. The motive is profit. These companies see extension as an effective means of promoting markets for their products. They often conduct training sessions and farm demonstrations to introduce their products to farmers. Some companies also provide technical assistance to farmers in their areas of expertise. For instance, chemical companies not only sell their products to farmers, but also provide technical advice on disease prevention and control. The role of the private sector in aquaculture extension is expected to become increasingly important in China in the future, embracing not only the feed and disease control industries as is the case today, but also other areas of aquaculture such as technology development.

[1] Big-head carp (A. nobilis), black carp (M. piceus), common carp (C. carpio), grass carp (C. idellus) and silver carp (H. molitrix).
[2] Culture-based fisheries is a stock enhancement technique which aims at increasing fish biomass of water bodies. There are arguments for and against classifying culture-based fisheries as aquaculture. Proponents maintain that it is a form of aquaculture because the growing of the fish involves human intervention. Opponents argue that both human intervention and exclusive user rights of the produce are necessary to classify the rearing of the fish as an aquaculture activity. This system is discussed here for information purposes only.
[3] Big head carp (A. nobilis), black carp (M. piceus), grass carp (C. idellus) and silver carp (H. molitrix).
[4] For grow-out only.
[5] Agricultural "Torch Programme" and "Rich Harvesting Programme" are the most important regular agricultural extension programmes which support aquaculture extension projects nationwide.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page