Dr. Jinyun Ye is the director and professor of the TseJian Institute of Freshwater Fisheries in the Republic of China.


How old is the tradition of fish farming in China?

Fish farming in China has existed for as long as three-thousand years. Because of its long history, the aquaculture in China can be praised for its rich experiences, substantially long culture, and the science of different breeding systems is very well advanced.

Could you speak about the history of polyculture, particularly carp?

In China, the most distinctive characteristic in aquaculture is mixed breeding. That means we take different kinds of fish and put them into the same breeding pond to feed and breed. Through this mixed breeding system we can make good use of the limited breeding space, and at the same time, take advantage of the best biological traits in different fish, thus, getting the best results from reproduction. This system of mixed breeding has evolved to be extremely efficient through several thousand years.

Has carp production increased in the past 30 years? What changes are you seeing in the industry?

Freshwater fish production, especially carp production, still plays a very important role in China, something like, 60% to 70% of the total production. In fishery economics, capture fisheries has historically had the upper-hand for years. Of course, after the opening of Chinese economy, also know as the "Open-Door Policy", the average person's earnings and lifestyle were raised to a higher level. Now the need for higher quality products is greater than in the past, and this is consistently increasing.

So, from this point of view, the trend we see is higher demand for the kind of specialty breeding which can be increased more quickly; and on the other hand, the capture fishery will be probably decreased. So, this is the trend of development now. In the context of aquaculture, capture fisheries’ low prices still play an important role in China. But you see, since the Open-Door Policy, the standard of living in China has improved greatly; so more and more people would like to have the more highly valued species. So in the future, higher value species will be increased.

Why has the government decided to develop freshwater aquaculture?

China's freshwater fishery has been quickly developed in recent years. I believe in the next few years it will continue to grow, and there are three major reasons for it. First, China is a country with vast population and a huge population requires substantial demand for animal proteins. Second, from the perspective of needing animal proteins, the fishing industry is a good way to go. And when we talk about fishing, we talk about marine fishing and aquaculture. And due to the exhaustion of the marine resources, the Chinese government encourages less ocean fishing (through policy decisions) and puts more effort into the freshwater breeding system.

Through focusing on this method, not only the total quantity of the production in the country will be increased, but the quality will also be higher. Third, from the farmer’s perspective, now farmers want to be economically self-sufficient and have independent resources of income in order to satisfy a standard of living. The freshwater fishery is a very good way for them to do it. Compared to other large-scale agriculture, for example food crops, the freshwater fishing industry has a far better potential for raising the standard of living than rice farming does.

How important is the development of aquaculture to take pressure off the over-exploited fisheries?

Since our resources in the ocean have been affected to such a degree, because of overfishing and damage to marine life, we need to focus on developing aquaculture. Through this development, we can also raise the level and the production of existing aquaculture. This is the most effective way to raise the quantity of fish products and animal proteins. In other words, due to overfishing in the ocean, marine resources are very limited now. So, we need more effort put into the expansion of aquaculture, and through aquaculture, we can increase the quantity of production.

How does the growing population figure into this equation?

China has a huge population now. And we predict that the population will continue to grow larger. It is now more essential than ever to find a way to provide enough resources of animal protein to the people, and aquaculture is the best way to do this.

It’s more profitable to grow fish than rice, now?

Right. Now from the overall agricultural perspective, aquaculture is a way for farmers to gain substantial extra income. Because aquaculture compared to rice planting is just more profitable, so farmers benefit from it.

Could you speak about the importance of developing sustainable aquaculture to minimize the impacts on the environment?

From this point on, we predict that aquaculture will continue to grow further in the future and at the same time, remain profitable. In order to achieve these two goals, we need to focus on two issues First is the quality of the management. We must do our best to have less negative effects to our natural resources and environment through careful control and management. Second, we have to pay attention to the safety of aquacultural products, meaning we should try our best not to use chemical products.

Can you talk about the feeds used in aquaculture?

A common practice now is for individuals to use fish scraps for feeding. But I don’t believe this will continue for long. I believe the trend will be that more and more farmers will use formulated fish food.

What about the use of “trash fish” in aquaculture?

I don't think using trash fish is a sustainable trend for the future. I have to admit that as of now it is one way of feeding here. However, I feel that, in the future, fish farmers will use more of the formulated fish food rather than trash fish for feeding.