Pollution from aquaculture tainting vacation destination in China

Published on
September 28, 2016

One of China’s leading producers of shrimp and tilapia is coming under pressure to shutter unofficial producers after a series of local media reports showed that aquaculture is behind huge discharges of nitrogen and phosphorous into local sea waters.

The impact of pollution from aquaculture has been felt hardest in Wenchang county, in the island province of Hainan, which is one of China’s leading regions for aquaculture. In the late 1980s, the province saw large-scale development of shrimp farms after crustaceans were identified as an alternative to uncompetitive heavy manufacturing.

Today, many of the local shrimp producers are “undocumented,” according to a report by local government that looked at the area’s problem with water pollution. This suggests the province hasn’t achieved a national government goal to have all aquaculture facilities registered by the end of 2015, which was one of the key aims of the 12th Five Year Plan, the blueprint for the country’s government. The plan reached its end-date in 2015.

Aquaculture in China has been challenged by the rise of domestic tourism, particularly in Hainan, which is often promoted in local media as “China’s Hawaii” and “China’s Florida.” The island’s year-round tropical sun has drawn millions of beach-goers and retirees, whose demand for cleaner waters and seaside accommodation has put the aquaculture industry under pressure.

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