One step forward, one step back for salmon farmers in China
Buoyed by high global prices for salmon, China’s fish farmers continue to try to farm the fish species. A string of freshwater salmon farms have surfaced in the inland province of Hubei, which is pocked with lakes and known for crabs and eels. In Hubai, a group of local aquaculture villages have been breeding salmon with some success.
“Hubei province has plenty of mountain springs and lots of townlands are now experimenting with salmon,” notes Zhang Xuezhen, associate professor at Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan, who advises several salmon farms in the region.
Salmon from Shiyan County and Enshi County is sold to restaurants in Wuhan, the provincial capital and one of China’s largest cities.
“We have very clean water and the water temperature never goes over 18 degrees, In fact, the average temperature is 11 degrees Celsius,” notes Deng Guibin, general manager at one of the salmon farms in Enshi County, which uses imported Norwegian seedlings.
Zhang said the aspiring salmon farmers are finding the learning curve to be steep and expensive.
“Chinese farmers have had to learn that salmon costs four times more to feed and needs eight times as much oxygen as cheaper fish,” explains Zhang.
Another hurdle to the salmon farmers is the widespread practice employed by retailers and restaurants ofpassing off rainbow trout as salmon.
“The price of salmon is three times the price of trout and many unscrupulous people use deceptive terms like ‘king salmon’ and ‘red salmon’ to confuse consumers,” Zhang said.
A prominent Chinese seafood processor, Oriental Ocean, has also pursued salmon farming in Shandong Province, with mixed results. The firm has taken a uniquely Chinese approach to retail by selling the salmon live in tanks, rather than fileted.