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4. The way forward

4.1 Orientation of the Chinese aquaculture policies

4.1.1 Development through market economy and openness to trade

China is expected to continue the implementation of its time-tested policies, which started in 1980 and which emphasize and promote aquaculture as a sustainable system of food production. The Chinese aquaculture is also expected to become more open to the outside world. The new Fishery Law emphasizes aquaculture as one of the major components of the country’s fishery and local economies. The Government will place more emphasis on aquaculture management at the macro level, with particular attention being given to regulating expansion and intensification of the industry. With China’s entry to membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Government will ensure that the aquaculture sector, including the production and processing subsectors, is duly strengthened and maintained. The goal is to increase the share of the Chinese aquaculture products in international markets.

4.1.2 China as a source of new aquaculture technologies

China is likely to remain the leader in the development of new aquaculture technologies in Asia. Through the introduction and extension of new technologies, and new species and strains, it is expected that per unit yield will increase considerably. The species combinations for production will also be managed to optimize production by responding to market demands.

The aquaculture sector will further improve through promoting better management, implementing "green" certification (eco-certification) and providing professional training. Further, the continuous development of new technologies will promote the refinement and advancement of the system of fisheries research and extension. Possible areas of future scientific research and development include offshore and deep-water cage culture, intensive farming, health management, and feeding and nutrition.

4.1.3 Environmental protection

Currently, all levels of the Government are paying greater attention to the regulation of agricultural, industrial and manufacturing processes, and municipal sewage disposal systems, with a view to monitoring their levels of compliance with government regulations on pollution abatement. Governmental departments are also closely monitoring farm, industrial and municipal discharge and waters, as well as other agricultural runoffs and effluents. The goal is to ensure that they are not being discharged without prior treatment or entering other waterways, especially in aquaculture zones.

In the future, aquaculture in China is expected not only to be environmentally friendly, but also rational, healthy, non-polluting and sustainable. Aquaculture needs clean water to thrive. With sound management, the latter can be self-cleaning. However, although marine cage farming and coastal shrimp farming can cause environmental pollution, to-date there is no specific plan of action and/or sound management system in place to safeguard the environment. The Government is working towards establishing such a plan. Steps have also been made in developing appropriate management strategies through adoption of the precautionary principle approach, as embodied in the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. In addition, prevention of non-point sources of pollution affecting aquaculture, mainly resulting from land wastes, is planned. It will be achieved through suitable awareness building and implementation of regulatory control programs by the responsible authorities. There are also plans to enforce remedial actions for environmental restoration applied in the past.

4.2 Future of aquaculture supply

The future of aquaculture in China looks bright. The Government’s commitment and support of the sector is strong. Fishery and aquatic resources and, in particular, aquaculture, continue to be of high priority, and fishery interests take precedence over other sectors of the national economy. The contribution from capture fisheries to total fish production is unlikely to increase within the foreseeable future. The demand for fishery products is growing, both within China and internationally. Policy initiatives and investments in aquaculture are likely to promote the continued growth of the sector and the supply of aquatic products, not only to meet the domestic demand, but also to support the growing international export market.

The features and achievements of Chinese aquaculture previously discussed attest to the economic worth of aquaculture, and a strong aquaculture policy can be invaluable to drive the engine of growth for any developing country economy. Total output of aquaculture production is expected to continuously increase until 2005. According to the national 10th "Five-Year Plan", the total production of fisheries will reach 46 million mt, of which 65 percent will be from aquaculture, or 29.9 million mt. This increase will be not only in terms of quantity, but also through quality improvement. This means that new species or varieties of high quality and high commercial value will account for such a higher ratio.

On the technical side, there are three main plausible ways of achieving these expectations: development of freshwater integrated farming and paddy-fish culture, development of marine aquaculture and implementation of participatory community extension services. Based on Chinese experiences in aquaculture, paddy-fish culture is a practical and economic way of increasing output of both fish and paddy. Paddy cultivation is an ecological model of the "large agriculture" system of production. With the increase in fish production, it is possible to decrease the use of pesticides and at the same time, improve the quality of the land. The net income from the fishery is at least twice that from paddy alone.

In marine aquaculture, sea ranching techniques, which include restocking of seed and habitat enhancement and improvement, are excellent ways to recolonize coastal fishing grounds for the benefit of coastal inhabitants through participatory community management of the marine protected areas. In China, several species like shrimp, abalone, scallop, mullet, large yellow croaker and others have been tried. The results indicate that sea ranching is suitable to protect natural resources and to increase fishery production with present management knowledge.

Because most aquaculture systems are in rural areas where poverty is widespread and endemic and illiteracy high, extension services are a necessity. Promoting participatory community extension services will create bridges to the scientific community and provide benefits from research. Such participatory linkages between the farming and scientific communities will foster and propagate practical skills and knowledge in both communities, so that future aquaculture research will not only be relevant, but will directly solve the problems faced by farmers.

There is increasing resistance to the production of certain aquaculture species that are destined only to select export markets where the purchasing power of these consumers is already very high. This is because of past experiences where, in the pursuit of high profits, the integrity of the production environment was compromised, with deleterious effects on the environment and the marginalization and impoverishment of the people living in surrounding areas.

4.3 Future demand for aquaculture products

There is good potential of increasing the share of Chinese aquaculture products in both the domestic and international markets. The explanation lies in the steady growth of the world’s population, improved domestic standards of living coupled with a zero growth projection for the country’s marine capture fishery, an improving marketing system and network, and distribution infrastructure, advances in fish preservation and processing technologies, including cold storage transportation, and the opening of new international markets through membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO).

With this potential, there is little doubt that the Chinese aquaculture will continue playing a major role in contributing to future supply of fish for both the domestic and global markets. As discussed in the previous section, it is projected in China’s 10th "Five Year Plan" that, by 2005, about 65 percent of the country’s total fishery production will come from aquaculture. This represents an increase of 5 percent from the sector’s contribution in 2000. Aquaculture is more highly developed along the eastern coastline of China, and these areas are focused on producing high-value, export-oriented species. In contrast, along the western coast of China, aquaculture is mainly focused on producing affordable fish for local consumption. Basic fish-farming activities, such as the culture Chinese carps, will continue to increase, in order to meet the basic need for fish by the increasing Chinese population.

Access to international markets that China’s entry into the WTO will provide, along with China’s low production costs and tariffs, are good market opportunities to its aquaculture products. However, the challenge will be to positively respond to potential non-tariff trade barriers which result from non-compliance with various international agreements, such as agreements on quality and safety standards and quarantine procedures.

In the Year 2000, China exported 1.53 million tonnes of fish and fishery products valued at US$ 3.83 billion. It is expected that by 2005, the country will export 2 million tonnes of fish and fishery products (10th Five Year Plan), valued at US$ 4.5 billion. This increase in the volume of trade will come from aquaculture and the processed seafood (capture fishery). It is also expected that the seafood processing industry, which will also process imported fish and shellfish, will contribute significantly to the projected increase in future exports.

Besides the species and products currently being exported, such as shrimp, molluscs, eel, yellow croaker, pearls, seaweed, grouper, seabass, yellowtail, tilapia, etc., other species that can be developed for export markets include turbot, trout and sturgeon, which are all popular in western countries.

However, there appear to be several constraints to realizing the full potential of Chinese aquaculture in international markets. The main ones include possible limitations to land use for aquaculture through the national land use policy and system, possible water use control and resulting inadequacy of water for aquaculture development as China is increasingly becoming a water-deficit country, and government policy on aquaculture expansion in several regions, mainly to maintain a minimum supply to meet the demand for fish which results from population growth and changes in local eating habits which are more and more biased towards fish consumption.

4.4. Future role of aquaculture in Chinese society

As it continues to develop, aquaculture will continue to play an important role in ensuring food supply and alleviating rural poverty, especially through job creation and income generation for the rural poor. Processing, value adding, marketing and the ornamental fish industry will also be improved. Government special efforts are also planned to assist the seafood processing industry to produce conveniently packaged and ready-to-eat products at affordable prices. This will be necessary, as it is expected that the quality and style of life of China’s urban and suburban population will gradually change as a result of the new economic policies of the country.

4.5 Main challenges ahead

The increase in domestic and international demand for fish, which results from economic growth and improved living standards, is likely to be the main determinant of the future of aquaculture in China. The low prices and quality of some fish products could inhibit the development of the sector. Some of the preventive measures to these potential constraints could include refining the quality standards and improving the inspection system for fish products, strengthening the planning and management of water quality control, regular monitoring and inspection of the water quality of aquaculture farming systems, managing production, sales and use of drugs and feeds used in aquaculture, establishing a system of land and water fallowing, and enforcing the legislation on responsible aquaculture, including product handling and processing.

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