China’s mariculture industry, workforce shrunk in 2015

The amount of space being used in China for seawater cultivation or mariculture and the number of people involved in the seafood and fisheries industry shrunk last year, according to a document recently published by the Ministry of Agriculture.

The space devoted to mariculture shrunk by 0.53 percent year-on-year and now stands at 2.31 million hectares, with 65 percent being used for shellfish cultivation, according to the document.

Published for regional fisheries officers, the document’s data on the stagnation in mariculture growth will be a disappointment for the country’s fisheries officials, who have made mariculture central to future seafood output.

Land for aquaculture is being squeezed, as China’s overall national aquaculture area of 8.4 million hectares is an increase of 0.94 percent year-on-year, and the area for freshwater aquaculture rose to 6.14 million hectares, up by 1.09 percent. Last year, the Ministry of Agriculture claimed China’s overall land bank for aquaculture rose by 3.81 percent over the previous year.

China’s population of “fishermen and fishing workers” dropped to 2.01 million in 2015, a 0.89 percent decrease on the previous year. Of that figure 670,000 are traditional fishermen and 1.41 million are working in processing and in fish farms – the latter figure is down 0.99 percent year-on-year. Incomes, however, are up, with the average fisherman making CNY 14,426.26 (USD 2,163.93) annually, an increase of 10.64 percent. That figure is low by current Chinese factory wage standards, but is likely to reflect the impact of summer fishing moratoriums on incomes. It’s not clear if the figure encompasses non-fishing income.

Ocean fisheries production of 2.19 million tons represents an increase of 8.12 percent but accounted for only 3.27 percent of China’s total output of seafood in 2015. That figure is perceived by many as lower than expected, given aggressive Chinese expansion of its overseas fleets. China claims a total 1.04 million fishing vessels – among them 672,400 motorized boats – with a total holding capacity of 10.86 million tons.

Further reductions of land supply, in part due to pollution as well as industrial and real estate development, means the mariculture industry must learn how to increase production and yield. An expected tightening of water pollution laws and more stringent enforcement could also see a further squeezing of the amount of land available for seafood cultivation in China.


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