Wang, Y. 2001. China P.R.: a review of national aquaculture development. In R.P. Subasinghe, P. Bueno, M.J. Phillips, C. Hough, S.E. McGladdery & J.R. Arthur, eds. Aquaculture in the Third Millennium. Technical Proceedings of the Conference on Aquaculture in the Third Millennium, Bangkok, Thailand, 20-25 February 2000. pp. 307-316. NACA, Bangkok and FAO, Rome.
ABSTRACT: Chinas aquaculture production exceeds its fish capture landings. When China adopted the reform and opening-up policies, fisheries began to take off rapidly. By the 1980s, fisheries were playing an important role in food security and became one of the most vital support industries and economic activities in rural development. Technical innovations, especially mass seed production of aquatic organisms, design and construction of commercial fish bases, expansion of coastal aquaculture and sea-farming, and intensive and high-yield aquaculture technologies stimulated a rapid increase in production; it rose from 1.68 million mt in 1980 to 21.82 mt in 1998. Improvements have been attained with expansion, increase in yield per unit area, improvement of support and production facilities, more investments in aquaculture research and development, and provision of better services to farmers. Constraints, however, are becoming more pronounced - these include increasing cost of production and biological problems, including genetic degradation of farmed species and diseases. The environmental problems have also exposed the shortcomings of the regulatory and institutional systems for fisheries.
China feeds 22 percent of the worlds population but has only 7 percent of the earths arable land, which is devoted mostly to grain production. Thus the substantial production from fisheries, especially aquaculture and enhanced fisheries, has made a significant contribution to improving the food intake and nutrition of the people. Aquaculture has also created much rural employment. Between 1980 and 1998, the additional number of people employed in the fisheries sector was 10 million; the average new entry or job creation is half a million people a year, with 70 percent going into aquaculture. To meet the demands of another 100 million people that are expected to be added to the population in the next 20 years, the fisheries development plan aims to promote the transformation of the fisheries economic system to fit the basic requirements of a market economy, and to promote science, education and sustainable fisheries development. The goal is to increase aquaculture contribution to improve the welfare of farmers and develop the rural economy.
KEY WORDS: Aquaculture Development, China, Fisheries, Planning, Fish Farming
From 1978, when China adopted reform and open policies, fisheries were placed in the rapid development track. Fisheries have played an increasingly important role in food security, especially after the late 1980s, to become one of the most vital support industries and an increasing centre of economic activity within agriculture and the rural economy. In the past 20 years, aquaculture has developed through the popularization of different operating systems, by means of designing and constructing commercial fish bases3, and by extending large-scale intensive and high-yield aquaculture technologies. These actions have led to aquaculture production rising sharply from 1.68 million mt in 1980 to nearly 21 million mt in 1997, an APR [Average Percent Rate] of 16.7 percent over this seventeen-year period. Alongside this production systems evolution and the associated increase in fish consumption, problems of regional and structural over-production, the reduction of comparative benefits and the degradation of the fisheries environment have been inhibiting factors for the further development of fisheries and aquaculture. In order to meet the demand for fish and fishery products in the new millennium based on the forecasted increase in population of 100 million people in the next 20 years, a general plan has been made for fisheries and aquaculture development in China. The plan is comprised of the following key elements:
Review of the achievements and development trends
Summary of aquaculture developments
During the past 20 years, the remarkable characteristic of Chinese fisheries and aquaculture development has been that the structure of production has changed, particularly when measured alongside the rapid increases seen in production volumes. The readjustment and optimization of the structure that exploits resources has been considered to be the most important factor for both the sustainable and rapid development of fisheries.
For a long time, capture fishery occupied the dominant position within traditional fisheries in China, providing 71 percent of total production up until 1978. The irrational pattern of increasing production by exploiting natural resources (mainly marine fisheries resources) had caused the degradation of fisheries resources, seriously limiting the potential for the sustainable development of the fisheries sector.
Following Chinas reform and opening-up to the outside world, the government adopted the policy to give first priority to aquaculture development in its overall fisheries development strategy, which resulted in the significant increase of aquaculture yield and its share in fisheries production.
In the past 20 years, vast areas of inland water bodies, shallow seas, mudflats and low-lying lands have been utilized effectively for aquaculture. The geographical distribution of aquaculture farming practice in the country also extended from the coast and the delta of the Yangtze and Pearl rivers, where fish farming has been practised for centuries, to the areas with no aquaculture tradition, particularly the three northern areas (i.e. North, Northeast and Northwest China).
By 1998, the total area devoted to aquaculture production in China had reached 6 085 000 ha, about twice that for 1980. In the same year, aquaculture production attained 21 820 000 mt4, 12 times that for 1980, an expansion reflecting an APR of some 32 percent, a measure of growth that confirms aquaculture to have been responsible for the major part of the increment of fishery production during this period.
| Amongst the major fish producing countries of the world,
China is the only one whose aquaculture harvest exceeds that of capture
fisheries. In 1998, the share of aquaculture in total fishery production
was 56 percent as compared to 26 percent in 1978. The rapid increase in
aquaculture production also significantly increased its contribution to
animal protein production; the percentage of aquaculture products in the
total animal products, including meat, poultry, eggs, milk etc. reached
32 percent in 1998 against 20 percent in 1985. At the same time, the diversity
of aquaculture products has shown a clear trend towards providing a wide
range of products of high quality. The main aquaculture species used for
production have developed from a few (four major Chinese carps, molluscs
and seaweed) to several dozen commercially important culture species that
include fish, shrimps, crabs, seaweed and molluscs for freshwater, brackish
and marine environments. Aquaculture production increasingly includes desirable
high-value species that now provide a significant portion of the total output.
For a long time, the per capita consumption of aquatic products in China was lower than the worlds average. During the period examined, the considerable increase in the availability of aquatic products has contributed to rising annual consumption figures, and by 1998, the consumption has reached 31.3 kg per capita, a figure that is 10 kg higher than the worlds average. The target of resolving the problem of fish shortage in China was reached on time. In China today, the aquatic products in the market are not only available in adequate supplies, but they are also rich in variety, of high quality and have a stable price.
Aquatic products are an indispensable food for the people, and it is often said that China feeds 22 percent of the worlds population but possesses only 7 percent of the worlds arable land which, in China, is devoted mostly to grain production. In fact, the large quantities of aquatic products harvested from the seas and inland waters also make great contributions to improving the human diet and, consequently, the health of the population.
China produces annually more than 20 million mt of aquaculture products, most of which contain high-quality fish protein, a situation that also reflects the important fact that aquaculture is an effective industry that utilizes lands that are not suitable for crop production and converts feed with a higher conversion rate than those of terrestrial animals.
| It is an activity that lessens the contradiction of having
a large population but little land, easing the pressure of population increase
and the concomitant demand for grain and meat. These observations embody
the great contribution of Chinese aquaculture production to food security
in China and the world.
The past two decades have shown aquaculture to be the most rapidly developing sector within agriculture, not only in terms of production, but also in the creation of jobs in the rural areas. In 1998, the total fisheries production value reached 161.7 billion Chinese Yuan5, which was about 75 times that for 1980 (2.1 billion Yuan). The increasing importance of this economic value is demonstrated by the observation that, in 1980, fisheries represented 1.5 percent of the total combined value of fisheries and agriculture, a figure that rose to 12 percent by 1998. In terms of employment within the fisheries sector, the labour force is now estimated to be some 10 million people, a figure that is rising by around 500 000 per year. Of these totals, it is calculated that 70 percent are engaged in aquaculture.
The aforementioned details demonstrate that aquaculture development has made itself an important sector within the rural economy in China. The scope is growing continuously for the development of a series of related industries, business and services, such as storage, processing, transportation, fish feed manufacture and marketing, which are subsectors driven by the development of aquaculture. The sector as a whole has been playing an active role in facilitating the optimization of the restructuring and performance of the rural economy.
Utilization of resources by fisheries and aquaculture
The integrated management and utilization of natural aquatic resources has not only widened the scope of aquaculture but has also allowed steady increases in production. In the first instance, the surface and rate of use of water areas increased. China has 17 470 000 ha of inland water surface, of which some 2 980 000 ha (17 percent) were utilized for aquaculture in 1980. The figure jumped to 5 080 600 ha in 1998 (30 percent). The total area devoted to mariculture increased from 133 000 ha in 1980 to 1 004 400 ha by 1998, nearly an eight-fold rise.
Secondly, not only has the aquaculture capacity improved, but the yield per unit area has also increased. Alongside the continuous improvements made in infrastructure, production facilities and technology extension, aquacultures capacity has risen continuously. In 1980, the average annual yield in inland waters was 315 kg/ha; it has risen to 2 400 hg/ha by 2000, close to a seven-fold increase. Mariculture is continuing to develop away from the simpler mollusc and seaweed cultures towards diversified systems of intensive culture of multi-species. The number of species used within mariculture has now reached several dozen and includes major commercial marine animals and plants, such as fish, shrimp, molluscs, seaweed and sea cucumber.
Aquaculture techniques include rafts employed for culture of kelp, Undaria, laver, scallops, oysters, abalone, mussels etc. in the shallow sea; net cages for a variety of marine finfish; ponds for the culture of shrimp, fish, crabs and molluscs; mudflats utilized for culture of clams, ark shells, razor shells and oysters; and enclosed indoor facilities (e.g. raceways and tanks) for rearing high-value species such as mock halibut, flounder, abalone and sea cucumber. Aquaculture systems are designed for multispecies mixed cultures, as well as for monospecies culture.
At present, a multi-patterned and three-dimensional mariculture industry is developing dynamically in the shallow seas and in the mudflats, adapting to local conditions in an appropriate manner.
The third consideration is that the labour force input and employment have increased. Aquaculture is seen to give better benefits and wider opportunities for market development and thus attracts a large number of agricultural labour. It has been observed that the economic returns of a one-hectare pond are equivalent to that from two hectares of cotton or three to four hectares of paddy field. The fisheries labour force, including aquaculture, increased from 2 950 000 in 1980 to 12 374 800 in 1998, and the average per capita income of fishermen rose from 171 Yuan to 4 323 Yuan during the same period.
Fourthly, the contribution from science and technology has increased the level of skills of workers in the sector. The capacity of workers in the sector to apply the scientific approach to fish farming has been vastly improved through technological research, demonstrations, extension and training courses.
|Tremendous efforts have been made to provide on-farm technical
support and extension services by fishery research institutes and technology
extension stations at the provincial, prefecture, county and village levels.
With the intensification of production systems and diversification of species,
the contribution of science and technology has become a vital factor in
aquaculture development. A comprehensive survey and tests carried out nation-wide
came up with the estimate that some 48 percent of production increase was
attributed to scientific and technological advancement.
Finally, aquaculture facilities have been enhanced and the investment in infrastructure increased. The rate of return on investment in aquaculture is high and continues to have good prospects. At the same time that the government invested considerable funds to construct 10 large commercial fish production bases for fish production, 500 000 ha of fishponds for intensive culture were built. This effort was realised using loans from the World Bank (WB), local government investment and labour input as the contribution of the people.
In order to guarantee the smooth implementation of the strategy of promoting fisheries by science and technology, both central and local governments have invested a tremendous amount of funds to establish a national aquaculture technical training and extension network consisting of extension stations at the central, provincial, prefecture, county and village levels. This extension system includes 37 stations at the provincial level, 206 at the prefecture level, 116 at the county level and 1 155 at the village level. Each station is equipped with appropriate instruments and training facilities. Furthermore, an original system has been established for promoting fine (i.e. high-value) species, which includes 25 specialized farms at the state level to maintain broodstock, combined with a fishery administration and environmental monitoring and protection system.
Analysis of the main experiences and lessons learnt
The important experiences in aquaculture development, described for China,
include the following:
Application of the fisheries development principle of taking aquaculture as the key
As China is rich in water resources and areas such as mudflats, the government proposed a core readjustment principle containing three keys utilize the resource rationally, make great efforts to develop aquaculture, and focus on improving quality. Through this approach, the government assured that aquaculture development became the key means to increase the supply of aquatic products. In 1985, the establishment of the fisheries development principle - take aquaculture as the key, let aquaculture, fishing and processing develop together, make different emphases according to local conditions enabled the fisheries sector to enter the rapid development phase, which was principally dependent on aquaculture expansion, forming a unique fisheries development pattern having Chinese characteristics.
Formulation of fisheries policies for development within the economic structure of the socialist market in China
The reformed and open environment in China has provided easier conditions
for the development of fisheries, a circumstance that included two main
policies. The first was the liberalization of right for land use and farm
management. An aquaculture farm management system was adopted based on
the household responsibility system as the key element, combined with
a diversified operating system. In order to encourage the people to reclaim
and exploit low-lying or saline-alkali land suited for aquaculture, the
local governments actively established preferential policies and provided
support and privileged fiscal and investment measures. These were extremely
successful, arousing enthusiasm for involvement in developing aquaculture
both within the population and industry. The second policy was the liberalization
of price control by government, which allowed the price of fish products
to adjust to the market, permitting the full range of advantages of unified
production and sales. All policies have given a great impetus to the development
of aquaculture in the country.
Adjustment of the cultured species profile and the reform of market-oriented aquaculture
In order to ensure the effective supply of fish products and increase the benefits from aquaculture, the local governments have paid considerable attention to popularizing the use of fine species for both stock enhancement and aquaculture purposes, thus diversifying and optimizing aquaculture species use. This has enabled inland aquaculture to break out of the traditional pattern of rearing the four principal domestic species (silver carp, grass carp, common carp and bighead carp). Large-scale freshwater production has now been achieved for well-known high-grade species such as eels, crabs, softshell turtles and freshwater prawns. In mariculture, increased production has been seen for shrimps and prawns, marine fish species, scallops and other high-quality species. The core single species activities, such as kelp and mussels, have adopted a multispecies approach where a combination of fish, shrimp, molluscs and seaweed are reared.
To be able to assure a constant, year-round supply of fresh and live fish, aquaculture methodology was also reformed, including the policy of take turns in fishing and stocking, catch the bigger and leave the smaller. This approach lessened seasonal peaks and troughs concerning supplies, thus improving the market situation and reducing overstocking as well as fluctuating prices. It is evident that aquaculture outputs and benefits have been improved with these reforms and operational changes.
Extending aquaculture technology and improving quality
Fisheries administrations have improved overall quality in aquaculture
through the popularization of many kinds of advanced and suitable techniques.
For example, the development and extension of artificial breeding and
feeding techniques allowed shrimp farming to expand rapidly to an annual
production of more than 200 000 mt in the early 1990s, and for scallop
to change from a high-value product to one that is readily available.
The application of intensive pond systems and more productive farming
systems and technology has increased average pond output from 750 kg/ha
in1980 to 4 500 kg/ha in 1998.
|The rate of use of water has increased through the application
of fish pen and cage farming in medium-sized and large water bodies and
the application of intensive farming technology (in small to medium and
large water bodies. It is estimated that this factor alone has contributed
to the doubling of productivity.
Integrating aquaculture with agriculture, forestry and animal husbandry has also assisted the rapid and successful development of aquaculture.
Strengthening the legal framework and fisheries management
Since reform and the introduction of an open door policy, China has established a basic policy of managing and developing fisheries by law. The legal system for Chinese aquaculture is based on the framework of Fishery Law. Its key purposes are to protect resources and utilize them rationally and to guarantee the rights and interests of fishermen. Further measures have been taken to improve the legal framework of Chinese fisheries and to strengthen monitoring and enforcement in order to assure its sustainable and healthy development.
The decline in genetic quality
At present, basic work on maintaining genetic fitness, including research, genetic purification and rehabilitation, is weak, a position that could result in genetic degeneration and lead to a potential degradation of many of the productive advantages, such as growth rates and disease resistance.
The economic impact of diseases in aquaculture
Although statistics are incomplete, expert analysis reveals that diseases are responsible for losses of some 15-20 percent of production, which would imply an economic loss of 5-7 billion Yuan (US$525-875 million) annually.
The tentative target for national fisheries production for the year 2010 is 51 million mt, which represents a 24 percent increase from the predicted production of 41 million mt in 2000, indicating an APR of 2.2 percent. The total value is estimated to reach 350 billion Yuan, contributing 15 percent to that of the entire agriculture sector. The targeted per capita availability of fisheries products is estimated at 36 kg.
The distribution and management of resources
The diversity encountered in respect of both production and consumption determines that the fishery resource should be utilized and exploited evenly. Such exploitation should not be that of natural fisheries (low investment, low output, light pollution, low benefit) nor should it be an industry (high investment, high output, high energy consumption and heavy pollution) that would exhaust the natural resource and degrade the environment.
The rational approach should be to take into consideration the total resource capability, the environmental capacity and social needs. On one hand, it is necessary to obtain higher fish production by enhancing the weaker points of the resource and increasing productivity. On the other hand, the production should be kept within a certain scale in order to respect the issues concerning sustainability. It is necessary to use modern science and technology to transform the traditional fishery activities into modern ones, to increase productivity using science, and to improve the productivity of water bodies and labour, and thus the yield rate of resources. This approach will realise the unification of the social, economic and ecological benefits of aquaculture.
China has 17.47 million ha of inland waters, of which only 35 percent are used, meaning that there is still a lot of space for aquaculture development. Nearly 6 million ha have been developed, but aquaculture remains predominantly at the stage of extensive farming. There is great potential for improving the rate of resource use, increasing the productivity, the product quality and the contribution of science. For example, out of the 6 million ha of inland aquaculture area, some 2 million ha, about one third of the total area of inland waters under cultivation, constitutes 70 percent of the total inland aquaculture production. The yields obtained from pond-fish farming are highly variable, noting that the average harvest figure in China is 4 500 kg/ha, but this can reach up to 9 200 kg/ha in high-yield regions, i.e. Jiangsu, Guangdon and Zhejiang provinces. However, significant differences can also be seen within the same region, depending on economic and technical conditions, which include modifications to ponds, integrating water flow and/or equipment and scientific training.
|Reservoirs constitute 31.6 percent of the inland waters under
cultivation, but they also have the lowest production yields (750 kg/ha)
and therefore, have great development potential. The application of cage
and fish pen culture in reservoirs would not only be a measure for increasing
production, but also one that can contribute to resolving problems of employment
and livelihood for immigrants in these areas. The recovery of lakes from
land also provides a new chance to develop fisheries along the lower reaches
of the Yangtze, the Pearl and the Songhua rivers. The activities of fishery
enhancement, and cage and pen culture in new open waters would not affect
the ecological environment of the land returned, but could recover the agricultural
In addition, the area of paddy fields is underused for aquaculture, being 1.3 million ha, which is only one third of the area considered suitable for aquaculture. Practice has shown that fish farming in paddy fields does not affect rice production, but it can provide a double harvest of both fish and rice. The goal of 1 500 kg fish and 15 000 kg rice/ha is not difficult to reach. In some remote and poor areas, to develop the paddy-fish combination, along with intensive culture, would assist the employment of surplus labour and help poverty alleviation.
To sum up, even if there was no increase in the availability of land and water resources specifically for aquaculture, the full exploitation of the potential of resources now available could meet the needs of sustainable aquaculture under both economic and environmental aspects. Meanwhile, encouragement is made for the use of wastewater for fish farming and the achievement of sustainable aquaculture, policies that are supported by the provision of preferential loans, fiscal conditions and technical services for aquaculture operators.
For increasing the efficiency of the use of water resources, well-established techniques should be adopted to exploit those water bodies that are not cultivated (65 percent of the total). On the other hand, resource enhancement (e.g. cage and pen culture in open waters) would be beneficial for the development of the reservoirs, lakes and other water bodies.
Aquaculture techniques and technological applications should be reformed
for some waters. For example, the extension of the use of hard, floating
feed pellets could assist the elimination of eutrophication or pollution
in waters that is caused by the poor management and feeding strategy.
The aspirations for aquaculture development for the period 2001-2020
In the next 20 years, the emphasis of fisheries and aquaculture development in China will be to:
To realise these goals, the state will primarily support the development of six core systems and six areas of concern. The systems to be developed are:
The six fields to be developed are the:
The implementation of the TWO SIXES systems will play an important role in strengthening Chinese fisheries and aquaculture, realising sustainable and healthy development, as well as speeding up the modernization process.
The distribution of fishery resources
It is unlikely that there will be any significant increase in pond areas in view of the limited suitable land available in China.
Consequently, the emphasis is on the upgrading of pond conditions, as well as the readjustment of culture techniques and the structure of the species cultivated. The enhancement and protection of the natural resources has to be encouraged, applying cage and pen culture in other water bodies, where appropriate. The development of polyculture alongside the capacity for multispecies applications will provide opportunities for diversification and the production of high-quality species and products.
Meeting market demand through recognized consumption patterns and economic realities would also encourage diversification. The assurance of stability within the aquaculture sector will support efforts towards the production of higher value species, providing greater economic benefit and a wider market potential.
The administration of fish farming
A number of requirements has been identified to allow the efficient administration of fish farming in China, including:
The plan for upgrading the national technological base
The fishery technical development trends to be seen in China in the next century have been identified as the following:
Strengthening technical services
In order to bring fishery technical extension into full play, it is necessary to develop different types of services for the benefit of the production sector. These include technical associations, mutual insurance aid and other nongovernmental service organizations that can serve the fisheries and aquaculture sectors. It is also necessary to improve the abilities for self-protection and self-development of the labor force under the conditions of a market economy.
Strengthening legal and institutional capacities
Firstly, current legislation and regulations require full implementation, where the following issues require completion or establishment:
Secondly, aquaculture systems and technologies should be developed in accordance with accepted ecological standards. Measures to promote the application of ecological standards and green products that have been reared in such systems should be the subjects of research and extension, giving focus on the supply of healthy, nutritious food. These are instruments that will assist the policies adopted for readjusting the market.
Thirdly, a licensing system for the discharge of sewage drain waters into fishery environments should be implemented where sewage could only be released after approval by the fishery environment monitoring department, which would be required to demonstrate discharge standards. Financial charges would be collected from those discharging sewage, the money to be used as a management fee to assist in:
Planning to transform Chinese aquaculture into a professional industry
Aquaculture has become an industry, and it is necessary to organize farmers associations, such as the National Collaboration Network for Eel, the Scientific Aquaculture Association, and others, in order for these to help in the management of the aquaculture sector and to coordinate the development plans for the industry. Detailed actions would include:
Economic and social expectations of aquaculture
Aquaculture can effectively promote economic development and societal progress. Firstly, the basic expectation for aquaculture should be that it should be an activity to guarantee the supply of fish products and, hence, food security, thus contributing to social stability and development.
Secondly, aquaculture can create significant employment opportunities, absorb and utilize surplus rural labour, encourage women and young people to be engaged in production activities, increase farmers income and assist in poverty alleviation. Aquaculture development can also provide opportunities for leisure and recreation through sports fishing and tourism.
Thirdly, the awareness of the needs for environmental protection and social responsibility should be heightened when developing aquaculture. It is the duty of the sector to control pollution and resource degradation and to meet the needs of current social and economic development, achieving these aims without threatening the viability of the resource for the next generation.
Fourthly, aquaculture should be developed as an economic activity that
can provide significant export earnings. As the world economy becomes
more and more unified, it is necessary to take advantage of resources
and technology to advance the economy and improve the stability of society.
1 People s Republic of China.
2 The original Chinese manuscript was translated by Mr Zhou Xiaowei, Programme and Training Specialist at the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA) Secretariat. Additional inputs were taken from the review of Chinese aquaculture and development plans presented by Mr Miao Weimin, Deputy Director of the Chinese Freshwater Fisheries Research Centre in Wuxi, at the Asian Regional Aquaculture Development Planning Workshop in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, September 1999.
3 This refers to a national campaign in China in the late 1980s and early 1990s to convert low-lying and saline-alkaline or waterlogged lands that are not suitable for crop production into fish ponds for large commercial-scale freshwater fish (in some cases also for shrimp and brackishwater species) production. With the expansion of pond area to approximately 500 000 ha, a significant increase in fish production was achieved.
4 FAO statistical data show 27 million mt because FAO counts shelled weight for molluscs and live weight for seaweed, while Chinese figures are in meat and dry weight, respectively.
5 1 US$ = 8.27 Chinese Yuan (exchange rate for 2000).