The Republic of Korea used to rely heavily on capture production. However, a continuous decrease in capture production in recent years has led the Republic of Korea to pay greater attention to aquaculture. Aquaculture production has increased from 667 883 tonnes in 2000 to 839 845 tonnes in 2003. Aquaculture has become a very important sector in the Republic of Korea. It provides food security, revenue and employment to the country. With the development of new technologies, aquaculture production has increased to account for more than one third of total fishery production in 2003.
Mariculture makes the largest contribution to aquaculture production. Mariculture is dominated by seaweed production, followed by molluscs and finfish. Freshwater aquaculture is also practiced to a lesser extent. Freshwater culture is dominated by finfish, and to a lesser extent molluscs and crustaceans. Culture practices include land-based tank culture, freshwater raceway culture, longline culture, bottom culture, offshore culture and recirculation systems.
The Republic of Korea used to rely heavily on capture production; however, a continuous decrease in capture production in recent years has led the country to an increased attention on aquaculture. The total national fisheries production in 2003 was 2 492 545 tonnes, comprising capture and culture production of 1 652 700 tonnes and 839 845 tonnes respectively. This indicates a shift towards aquaculture when compared with the capture and culture production quantities of 1 838 018 and 667 883 tonnes, respectively in 2000.
Despite the decline in capture production, the demand for aquatic products has been on the increase. The Republic of Korea recorded a trade deficit in fishery products for the first time in 2001 to meet the domestic demand for aquatic products; there is a clear need to further develop the aquaculture sector in the country.
It was around 300 years ago when commercial aquaculture was first practiced in then Korea (before partition), however; science-based research activities were only initiated in 1929 by the Jinhae Inland Fisheries Research Institute, part of the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (NFRDI).
The early research activities by NFRDI focused on freshwater finfish, this was quickly followed by other organisations which initiated various inland fisheries research programs which in turn contributed to the development of the mariculture sector. Recently, hatchery-based seed production and advanced aquaculture technology have led to a rapid development of the industry, enabling mass production of juveniles and the introduction of foreign species into the country.
The total of 839 845 tonnes of aquaculture products produced in 2003 were valued at US$ 1.06 billion, with mariculture responsible for the highest contribution to the total aquaculture production of the Republic of Korea. The mariculture sub-sector is dominated by seaweed followed by molluscs and finfish while crustaceans are of much less importance in terms of production volume. Contrary to the trend in mariculture, freshwater culture is dominated by finfish while molluscs and crustaceans are produced in small volumes.
Culture practices include land-based raceway culture systems, longline culture, bottom culture, offshore culture and recirculation systems.
Although the output of aquaculture accounts for less than 1 percent of the country's GDP, the industry has a positive effect on the economic growth of the country. Besides providing jobs for the rural population aquaculture has promoted the development of related industries and also plays an important role in national food security. There has been a significant increase in consumption of aquatic products and with the steady decrease in capture production. There is great potential for further development of the aquaculture industry.
Mariculture makes the highest contribution to the employment of labour, about 92 percent of people employed in the aquaculture industry in 2004 while only 8 percent of the people were employed in freshwater aquaculture. Of those employed in marine aquaculture, 49.7 percent were engaged in production of molluscs, seaweed, finfish and crustacean production contributing 29.1 percent, 9.05 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively. About 1.5 percent of the people were employed in hatcheries. Apart from these people that are directly involved in aquaculture many others are engaged in subsidiary sectors, including research and development.
Korea is a peninsula covering a total area of 228 148 km2 of which the Republic of Korea accounts for 99 000 km2 . It has a coastline of 8 693 kilometers around its peninsula and an additional 17 269 kilometers of coast around some 3 000 islands within its territory (Bai, 1999).
The number of rivers, lakes and waterways is 3 993 (2 801 km2 ), 17 948 (1 103 km2 ) and 17 913 (1 750 km2 ) respectively.
About 8 839 aquaculture licenses covering a total area of 121 853 hectares have been issued to individuals and organisations for production of various aquatic products as follows:
Cultured seaweed species include sea mustard (Caulerpa sp.), laver (Porphyra spp.), kelp (Laminaria spp.), fusiforme (Hizikia fusiformis ), green laver (Monostroma sp.) and codium (Codium sp.).
Molluscs are the second most important group of marine aquaculture products and the primary species produced, including the oysters (Crassostrea gigas and Pinctada fucata ), Korean mussel (Mytilus coruscus ), the sea squirt red oyas (Halocynthia roretzi ), the Japanese carpet shell (Ruditapes philippinarum ), ark shells (Anadara satowi and A. broughtonii ), cockles (A. granosabisenensis and A. subcrenata ), Yesso scallop (Patinopecten yessoensis ) and abalone (Haliotis discus hannai ).
Marine finfish culture is dominated by bastard halibut (Paralichthys olivaceus ), Korean rockfish (Sebastes schlegeli ), mullet, seabass, yellowtail, red seabream, black seabream, brown croaker and puffers.
Crustacean culture is primarily concerned with two species of shrimp and some crabs. Fleshy prawn (Penaeus chinensis ) and kuruma prawn (Penaeus japonicus ) are the prime species of shrimp being farmed with the former raised mostly in farms along the west of the peninsula and the latter in farms in the southern region.
Finfish are the most important species in freshwater aquaculture; species in this group include trout, mud fish (Clarias sp.), Japanese eel (Anguilla japonica ), tilapia, common carp, loach, colored carp, snakehead (Channa sp.), sweet fish, Korean bullhead (Pelteobagrus fulvidraco ), goldfish and mountain trout. Crustacean and molluscs are of much less importance in freshwater culture in the country.
Longline based oyster farming is practiced on the southeast and southern coasts, including the Tongyoung blue belts where the water depths are 5-20 m. Longlines of about 100 m long are stretched horizontally on the surface of water, spaced 5-10 m apart, floats and anchored firmly to the bottom in order to keep the longlines on the surface of the water. Vertical ropes are hung from the longlines at intervals of 50-70 cm to which seed collectors are attached every 30-50 cm, normally, the lines are made of polyethylene, and the floats are of styrofoam. The farming of oysters, mussels, pearl oysters and sea squirts is based on these longline systems.
Bottom culture techniques are used for benthic species such as ark shells (Andara spp.) and Manila clams (Corbicula manilensis ). Normally, water depths for bottom culture are less than 20 m but occasionally up around 40 m maximum.
Offshore systems which are commonly used for Korean rockfish, one of the most important marine species in the country is usually produced in offshore floating net-pens. Fixed and semi-floating culture systems are used for laver seaweed production.
Due to the country's high population density and limited available land area, commercial recirculation fish culture systems have become important production systems. These systems require a high initial capital investment for the construction of the farm and a high level of management but this is matched by the high output due to high stocking density.
The 2003 aquaculture production figure comprised marine production of 826 245 tonnes and freshwater production of 13 600 tonnes. The total aquaculture production value was US$ 1.06 billion.
The mariculture sub-sector is dominated by seaweed production, accounting for 452 054 tonnes or 55 percent of mariculture production in 2003. Second to seaweed is mollusc culture (291 063 tonnes), followed by finfish (80 804 tonnes) while crustacean (2 324 tonnes) is of much less importance in terms of production volume.
Seaweed production was dominated by wakame (Undaria spp.), and laver (Porphyra spp.), with annual yields of 198 172 and 193 553 tonnes, respectively in 2003 while fusiforme (Hizikia fusiformis ) and kelp (Laminaria spp.) contributed 33 661 and 25 259 tonnes.
Oysters are the most important species of mollusc under culture with annual production of 238 326 tonnes in 2003. In the same year, 27 494 tonnes of short neck (Paphia spp.), 15 785 tonnes of hard clam and 13 653 tonnes of sea mussels were produced.
Other species of molluscs farmed include ark shell, scallop, pen shell, cockles, Venus clam and abalones, all produced in much smaller volumes than the preceding species.
The most important species of marine finfish are bastard halibut, produced in onshore tank farms and Korean rockfish, produced in offshore floating net-pens. Bastard halibut (Paralichthys olivaceus ) accounts for more than 98 percent of flatfish production in the country. It was reported that 34 533 and 23 771 tonnes of bastard halibut and Korean rockfish, respectively, were produced in 2003.
The production of crustaceans is very small, and culture is primarily concerned with two species of shrimp and some crabs. Fleshy prawn (Penaeus chinensis ) and kuruma prawn (P. japonicus ) are the prime species of shrimp under culture. Annual yield of 2 324 tonnes was recorded for fleshy prawn in 2003, however, worthy of note is the fact that the interest in shrimp farming has grown rapidly since 1989.
Contrary to the trend in mariculture, freshwater culture is dominated by finfish. A total of 12 866 tonnes of finfish was produced in 2003, accounting for 95 percent of the annual freshwater aquaculture production. The bulk of the finfish production comprises eel (4 312 tonnes), trout (3 521 tonnes), catfish (1 609 tonnes), loach (968 tonnes) and common carp (920 tonnes). Finfish production is followed by molluscs (688 tonnes), while crustaceans are produced in much smaller volumes.
Table 1: FAO statistics for the Republic of Korea aquaculture production (tonnes) and its value (US$ 1000) between 1994 and 2003.
(Source: FAO Fishery Statistics, Aquaculture production, 2003).
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Republic of Korea according to FAO statistics:
The Republic of Korea imports aquatic products from China, the Russian Federation, the United States of America, Japan and Viet Nam for domestic consumption and re-export. A difference is never made between imported products and domestically cultured products when reporting the total export quantities and values.
In 2003 a total of 424 785 tonnes of fishery products, valued at US$ 1.13 billion was exported, the bulk of the exported product was in the form of frozen products (273 933 tonnes). Other forms included live products, fish meal, fresh or chilled, smoked, dried, salted or in brine and products packaged in air tight containers.
The major species exported to other countries included tuna, squid, conger eels, oyster, ark shells, crabs, fusiforme (Hizikia fusiformis ), wakame (Undaria pinnatifida ), baby clams, laver (Porphyra spp.), sea-urchin, chub mackerel (Scomber sp.), horse mackerel (Trachurus sp.), top shells (Calliostoma sp.), plaice, agar-agar and flatfish.
The Republic of Korea exports her processed aquatic products to Japan, the United States of America and Europe. Much of the secondary processing is done in China due to its comparatively low labour costs. Both imported and locally cultured products from the country are shipped to China where these products are processed and re-exported.
Aquaculture also plays an important role in food security, since the country is located on a peninsular with a high population density and limited arable land, the fishery, together with aquaculture production is critical to the food security of the country.
Concerted action by both the public and private sectors is essential to ensure a continued supply of quality fish for current and future generations. To improve food safety and harmonise with international standards of food quality, the Government has enacted the 'Fishery Products Quality Control Act', which came into effect on 1 September 2001.
The act introduced HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) systems for the handling and processing of seafood, subsequently, the government has also issued a Ministerial decree in accordance with the Act, which sets the HACCP critical control points for fishery products and commodities intended for export from 14 March 2002 onwards. The HACCP system will be extended to cover other producing and processing facilities.
The policies ensure the maintenance of environmentally friendly aquaculture technology development, control of aquatic animal diseases, regionally appropriate aquaculture technology development, and aquaculture technology development for an increasing inland aquaculture production.
For more information on aquaculture legislation in Republic of Korea please click on the following link:
National Aquaculture Legislation Overview - Republic of Korea
The initial aquaculture research activities on freshwater finfish contributed towards the development of mariculture, NFRDI and the national universities including Pukyong National University played a central role in the development of mariculture operations.
Hatchery-based seed production is a primary element in recent aquaculture development because advanced aquaculture technology is based around the mass production of juveniles from hatchery-based seed. The twelve NFRDI marine hatcheries located along the coastal areas of the peninsula have played a significant role in the technical aspects of the development of hatchery-based seed production technology. As a result of these efforts, commercial hatcheries have thrived in the country providing fish and shellfish farmers with adequate supply for their aquaculture needs.
These institutions are currently conducting research into the genetic improvement of aquaculture species and the development of new high value added products from aquatic organisms.
Already certain tidal areas in the southern provinces have been designated for shellfish culture, in line with this development, particular effort is being made to protect and enhance the surrounding coastal environment. There is a growing concern that pollution might affect fishing and aquaculture production due to the reclamation works and construction of industrial complexes in the southern and western coastal districts of the country.
The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries has prepared a 'Basic Plan for the Development of Nurturing Fisheries' to foster the highly value-added aquaculture industry. Under the plan, about 1.1 trillion won (KRW) (approximately US$ 1.1 billion) will be invested by 2008 to implement core tasks, such as the restructuring of aquaculture fisheries, the development of aquaculture technologies, and the improvement of the marine environment.
The aquaculture industry will be restructured to establish an optimal production system to enhance competitiveness, about 10 percent of the number of aquaculture facilities will be reduced over the next five years and new licenses will not be issued for the production of such products as laver, sea-mustard and what is considered as over produced fish species.
By turning to more advanced aquaculture production sectors within the next five years, the Ministry plans to encourage the industry to reduce production costs to a point where it can compete favorably with its foreign counterparts. With the development of new technologies, aquaculture production has increased to account for more than one third of the total fishery production in 2003 and there has been a great increase in production of high value fish species, such as Bastard halibut and Korean rockfish. There has equally been an increased interest in the farming of shrimps.
Due to concerns surrounding health issues, emphasis has been shifting to the consumption of aquatic products with the per capita fish consumption reaching 52 kg/year in 2002. Consumers now prefer eating aquatic products as an alternative to red meat due to their associated health benefits. Efforts are now being made to establish a consumer-oriented supply of farmed fish products in order to develop processing methods which allow the production of high value-added products.
As previously mentioned, aquaculture products basically follow the same distribution channels as capture products, consequently, trends in marketing of capture and aquaculture products are the same. Several measures are being taken by the Government to ensure there are stable market prices for fishery and agricultural products through the establishment of the 'Price Stabilisation Fund'. The fund is intended to cover ten items of fishery products, including dry seaweed, frozen squid and frozen hair-tail fish.
Fishery marketing systems have been improved through the expansion of market facilities and the up-grading of the consignment system at ports and of the distribution capacity in areas with a large consumer population. Since October 1997, the government has liberalised the consignment system.
This policy has been part of a two-stage free market system first introduced in 1996. Five direct-sale market facilities have been established in large urban areas to strengthen the distribution and handling capacity in areas with large populations. The improvement includes the reduction of the number of steps in the distribution and handling chain and the promotion of direct shipping to consumers by fishermen's cooperatives.
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