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East Asia is easily the most important region in the world as far as aquaculture is concerned - and for a number of reasons.

Firstly it is the cradle of aquaculture. China is the country where aquaculture began about four thousand years ago, and several countries such as Japan, the Philippines, and Viet Nam have long traditions of aquaculture dating back some 300 or 400 years.

Secondly it is the region which has consistently given the greatest production from aquaculture over the past decade. China, Japan, and the two Koreas lead in output and, between them, contribute about 5.58 million metric tonnes (t) of fish and fishery products, equivalent to 86% of the production of the region in 1985.

Thirdly it is the region where there is the largest market for aquaculture products; for example, Japan imported more than 250 000 t of high-value shrimps in 1986. Finally it is in East Asia where development of the aquaculture industry could best be described as phenomenal: for example, Taiwan PC (Province of China), China, and the Philippines are recording annual growth rates of shrimp production of 1 022%, 918% and 270% respectively from 1975 to 1985. However, while a number of countries in the region have emerged leaders in global aquaculture, countries like Brunei, Laos, Macau, and Mongolia have little or no aquaculture to speak of.

The East Asia region, for purposes of this report, includes the following twelve countries: Brunei Darussalam, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea, Laos, Macau, Mongolia, Philippines, Taiwan PC and Viet Nam.

Diversity is a striking feature of these countries, especially with regard to land area, population size and density, and the abundance of natural resources. Population size, for example, ranges from a low of 1.9 million in Mongolia to a high of 1.08 billion in China, excluding the Province of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau (1987). There are also wide disparities among them with respect to their general economic structure; the importance of agriculture and fisheries to the local economy; the degree of industrialization achieved; the development of infrastructure facilities such as power, transport, and communications; domestic markets and monetary/financial institutions; and general administrative capabilities.

Despite these differences, however, the countries of the region, with the exception of Japan (a developed country), Brunei (a small oil-rich country with the highest per caput income in the world), and Republic of Korea (classified among the "newly industrialized countries"), are categorized as "developing Third World" countries. As such they are generally characterized by high population growth rates, low incomes, low levels of education, health, and personal consumption, and low levels of infrastructure development and industrialization.

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