01 / 1998
The history of shrimp culture in China is very long. Traditionally, `harbor culture" was practised, which depended on natural seeds of several species. No feeding or fertilisation of ponds was required. The yield under this extensive system was low-about 70 kg per hectare.
China’s shrimp farming industry, which mainly relies on a semi-intensive system, started to boom in 1982. In 1991, China was the largest producer of cultured shrimp in Asia, as a result of active support from the government. The total production rose from 460 metric tons in 1975 to a close to 200,000 metric tons in 1988. It rose to a high of about 234,000 metric tons in 1991, before falling to 123,241 metric tons in 1994. The fluctuations in production have largely been due to disease outbreaks.
In 1989, just a year after Taiwan’s production dropped due to diseases and environmental degradation, China experienced its own environmental backlash. As water quality became a problem and toxic wastes began to accumulate on pond bottoms, diseases spread and many of the crops were lost. While China’s environmental problems were less intense than those of Taiwan the previous year, they were basically caused by the same expansionist mismanagement, in which there was little, if any, consideration for maintaining natural
ecosystems and the environment in general.
There was another outbreak of disease in 1993. A great quantity of cultured shrimp was destroyed and many ponds yielded nothing. The direct economic loss was 167 million US dollars, with an indirect economic loss of more than 357 million US dollars. Most aquaculture enterprises and farmers ran into losses. The government took several steps to deal with the situation, but the industry has not fully recovered from the blow.
The government is now trying to promote sustainable forms of shrimp culture. It is attempting to control stocking density and to promote polyculture practices. In addition, the use of good quality feeds is being promoted. Legislation and rules to ensure sound management practices are also being considered.
In China too, the lessons about shrimp farming have been learned the hard way. Frequent disease outbreaks have provided a sure indicator of the unsustainability of currently employed shrimp culture practices. While direct and indirect economic losses to investors have been very high, the social and environmental costs have hardly been computed, and are likely to be far higher. Clearly, government efforts at regulating the industry and
promoting sustainable forms of shrimp culture are essential. In this effort it is also important to draw and learn from the long tradition of shrimp culture in China.
BAIRD, Ian, The Environmental and Social Costs of Developing CoastalShrimp Aquaculture in Asia, 1993; Wei Baozhen (Bureau of Fisheries, Ministry of; Agriculture, P.R.China), 1997, "The current status and prospect of shrimp culture in China",; Paper presented to the FAO Technical Consultation on Policies for Sustainable Shrimp; Culture, Bangkok, Thailand, 8-11 December, 1997