Aquaculture for all

Chinese Aquaculture Industry - Review Of 2009


Cui Lifeng, Deputy Director-General of the Bureau of Fisheries of the Ministry of Agriculture gives a review on the fishery achievements in 2009. Summarised by TheFishSite junior editor Charlotte Johnston.

Speaking to the official Chinese news agency, Mr Lifeng summarises the rapid development and remarkable achievements of the Chinese aquaculture and fishing industry over the last 60 years.

"There has been huge leap in both the quantity and quality of aquatic products in fishery production. Both the quality and quantity have been ranking first in the world for 20 consecutive years. The hold of aquatic products per capita has reached 36 kilograms, 1.6 times more than the world average. As we can see from this figure, the problem of the supply of aquatic products in China, especially in the 1970's and the 1980's when it was generally difficult for Chinese people to eat fish, has been successfully resolved over the past years."

Mr Lifeng went on to explain that another major achievement of the industry was the development of the industrial structure and development mode. He said that aquaculture has overtaken ocean fishing and natural fishing as the dominant industry. "China is the only country in the world where aquaculture output has exceeded the output of ocean fishing. Aquaculture has developed from traditional methods to a more healthy ecological aquaculture."

"With these developments, it could be said that China is leading the world's fishery industry." He went on to say that the fishing industry has developed so that now instead of just catching fish, people are paying attention to conservation and rational utilisation. As well as this, he believes that the fishing industry has also driven the development of other related industries, including the manufacturing of fishing boats, fishing machines and fishing gears, processing and distribution of aquatic products, leisure fishery, food and beverage and entertainment.

"The fishing industry has also offered job opportunities to many farmers and fishermen. There are nearly 15 million people employed in China's fish industry - in other words the fishing industry has solved unemployment for 15 million people," he said.

Mr Lifeng said that the quality of fishing boats and equipment had improved significantly, as had the technical support for the industry. "The national research, development and promotion team for fishery has more than 40,000 members, which has resulted in a number of achievements. One of them being the improvements in breeding technology for Chinese carps, seaweed, kelp, prawns and crabs. The innovation and invention of these technologies has supported and driven the improvement of the overall production capacity of the whole industry."

The Deputy Director-General was impressed with the degree of internationalisation and the international status of fishery. Chinese aquatic products have ranked first in the world since 2002, and the export volume of aquatic products accounts for the majority of the agricultural industry. He demonstrated the growth by saying that in 2008, the export of aquatic products exceeded US$10 billion, almost 40 times that of 1978.

He said that a historical leap has been made in the ability of fishery on the construction of legal system and law enforcement management. There are now more than 600 laws, regulation and regulatory documents on fishery management in China, through the Fishery Law of the People's Republic of China.

"Fishing is an industry which mainly uses natural resources. Despite natural resources been relatively scarce, there is an abundant source of waters, inland rivers, lakes and ocean. There is a huge potential for marine aquaculture. With a huge demand for employment and consumption, the development of the aquaculture and fishery industry could help solve these problems and food security.

China's ocean fishery has developed in the background of the 'Going Out' strategy, which was implemented with China's reform. There are now nearly 1,500 fishing boats operating in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans. Each year, part of what they capture will be sold on the international market and some shipped back to China. He urged the industry to make full use of domestic and international markets. He said the 'Going Out' strategy is a means for protecting China's maritime rights and interests as well as allowing the Chinese fishing industry to become involved with international affairs.

Speaking about the global financial crisis, Mr Lifeng said that there has been some impacts on China's industry. He said that despite the export volume of aquatic products exceeding US$10 billion, export volume in 2009 showed a decline. He also said that industries involved in fishery exports had been affected, as well as the processing industry.

"However, it seems that these impacts have not yet changed the general situation of the development of China's fishery. Recent fishery statistics show that China's fishery economy is still maintaining stable growth and total output of aquatic products is expected to reach 51.20 million tons in 2010, an increase of four per cent year on year," says Mr Lifeng. He also expects fishermen incomes to carry on increasing, potentially exceeding 8,000 yuan.

Despite the continuing growth, Mr Lifeng said that he was concerned about the overall fishery resources and ecological environment in China. Firstly he spoke about water pollution. "Rapid growth and industrialisation has resulted in serious pollution of offshore sea areas and many inland rivers and lakes, thus affecting the reproduction and growth of aquatic lives."

Secondly, he said that over fishing was a major problem in China due to the large quantity of people, fishermen and fishing boats exceeding the renewing capacity of resources.

Thirdly, Mr Lifeng said that construction projects such as building dams over rivers, reclaiming land from the sea, project development, offshore oil production and transport pose great risks to habitats, breeding grounds and migration rules of aquatic lives.

Defending the fishing ban in place during summer months, Mr Lifeng said that this allows adult fish to reproduce and young fish to grow. The ban was first formally introduced in 1995 when all fishing was banned during summer months in the Yellow Sea and East China Sea. Later in 1999 it was also implemented in the South China Sea and the Bohai Sea. The ban lasts two and a half to three months and is implemented in several major coastal areas of China, involving 11 provinces, regions and cities in coastal areas.

The closed fishing season in the Yangtze River has been implemented across the whole Yangtze River basin since 2002, and fishing is forbidden at the end of spring and the beginning of summer when fish are in reproduction and growing. Currently the closed fishing season is three months. It is applied to the upper reaches and middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River. The closed fishing season in the Yangtze River involves dozens of provinces and cities along the Yangtze River and nearly 60,000 fishing boats and 200,000 fishermen participate in this activity.

"The closed fishing season protects the biological population, by leaving time for reproduction, allowing the population to grow. It also stabilises fishery production, increasing incomes and reducing fishermen's expenditure. Finally it makes the public and fishermen aware of the importance of environmental protection. It plays an important role in protecting the environment and natural resources. Dual-control is short for controlling the number of fishing boats and their powers. By controlling these two indicators, the overall size of the fishing fleet can be controlled, so as to control the fishing intensity. The dual control system and the system of summer fishing ban in the sea and the close fishing season in the Yangtze River are complementary for each other. "

With regard to energy-saving and climate change, Mr Lifeng said that the industry could play an important part in reducing emissions. He said measures need to be taken to ensure fishing vessels reduce emissions and save energy. Mr Lifeng also pointed out that research has proven that the ocean is important in absorbing carbon. "Aquatic lives, especially large algae and shellfish, which are known as the purifiers and filters of the sea, can absorb carbon dioxide contained in the water, and at the same time indirectly absorb carbon dioxide contained in the air, thus reducing the amount of carbon dioxide and reducing its emission."

Addressing the issue of the work of the China's Yuzheng Ship 311, which went out to patrol in early 2009, Mr Lifeng said that the ship is part of the fishery administrative team which regulates the industry,

The team is involved in protecting fishery resources and keeping the order of fishery production including the management of boats, solving disputes and supervision and management of safe production. They are also responsible for law enforcement and safeguarding the country's marine rights.

The team is also involved in supervision over foreign-related fishery management.

Speaking about the future of the industry, Mr Lifeng said the industry should be resource-saving, environmentally friendly and sustainable. Any future fishery plans need to be implemented to form an industrial system integrating fishery, industry and trade, as well as production, supply and marketing. Modern fishery production should supply sufficient, high-quality and safe aquatic products and high-quality services.

He concluded saying that the focus will be on improving the quality and efficiency of fishery development, transforming fishery development and improving its industrial structure, enhancing the driving force and vitality for the industry, and expanding the functions and spaces for fishery development.

January 2010
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