Chinese carp
China is a leading global producer and exporter of seafood, exporting almost $10 billion of seafood a year. It is an important supplier for the United States and Japan. Much of it comes from land-based fish farms that produce everything from shrimp and catfish to tilapea and eel. China is now the second largest importer of fish after Japan.

China is the world's largest fish producer. Top fishing nations (catch in millions of metric tons, 2006); 1) China (44.3); 2) Peru (8.88); 3) India (6.06); 4) United States (5.44); and 5) Indonesia (5.42). China’s catch in 1990 was 13.44 million tons. China's fish catch in 2002: 42.6 million metric tons. Largest harvesters of fish (metric tons): 1) Japan (7.5 million); 2) China (7 million); 3) Peru (6.7 million); 4) Chile (6.5 million); 5) Russia (5.2 million); 6) the U.S. (5 million). [Sources: National Geographic, NOAA ]

In 2003 China caught 16.7 million tons of fish, far outcatching the second-ranked nation, the United States, with its 4.9 million tons. Aquaculture also was substantial in world terms. In the same year, China harvested 28.8 million tons of fish, an amount more than 10 times that of the second-ranked nation, India, which produced 2.2 million tons. The total fish production in 2003 was 45.6 million tons. Of this total, 63.2 percent was from aquaculture, an increasing sector, and 36.7 percent from fish caught in rivers, lakes, and the sea. [Source: Library of Congress]

With some 300,000 fishing vessels and 8 million fishermen, the Chinese fishing industry is by far the world's largest, producing an annual catch in excess 17 million tons. But catches have decreased in waters close to China's shores, forcing the fleet to venture farther.

Chinese fishermen have been at the center of several international disputes. See China's Relations with See South Korea and Japan and the South China Sea Under Government, International.

Good Websites and Sources: NOAA 2000 Report on Chinese Fisheries ; China’s Fishing Fleet ; Wikipedia article on Fishing in China Wikipedia ; Wikipedia Article on Aquaculture Wikipedia ; Manual for Fish Farming in China ; FAO Report on Fish Farming in China ; Freshwater Fisheries Research Center ; World Resources Institute Report on Fish Farming ;Chinese Lumber Industry ; China: Forest Profile ; 1990s Report on Deforestation in China ; Links in this Website: RESOURCES IN CHINA ; PEARLS, RARE METALS AND RARE EARTHS IN CHINA ; FISHING AND TIMBER IN CHINA ; ENERGY AND ELECTRICITY IN CHINA ; WATER IN CHINA

Fish Consumption in China

Top fish consumers per person (including caught and farmed fish): 1) Japan, 66 kilograms; 2) China, 56 kilograms; 3) the United States, 47 kilograms; 4) Indonesia, 20.2 kilograms; 5) Russia, 19.1 kilograms. 2006 NOAA

The amount of seafood consumed in China has risen from 5.2 kilograms in 1980 to 25.4 kilograms in 2003, still far behind Japan which consumes 66.2 kilograms per person. Seafood has traditionally been consumed mostly in coastal areas, a region hat s home to 400 million people. .

Seafood has traditionally been thought of as luxury item. Even today its is very expensive. Chinese have traditionally eaten fresh water fish raised in fish farms. One thing that has really helped the seafood industry is increased use of freezers and refrigerators.

Conveyor belt sushi bars are popular in Beijing and Shanghai. Supermarkets and department stores have displays of tuna and salmon sashimi, assorted sushi, saury and cuttlefish Despite relatively high prices consumers snap it up, so much so that Chinese consumption of sea food has helped lift prices for fish worldwide.

See Food, Life

Fish Processing in China

Of all the fish caught in the world. Only about three quarters are eaten by humans. The remainder are used to make things like glue, soap, pet food and fertilizer.

The Chinese often made glue from air bladders of fish, usually carp. The tough , white bladders are made of elastic collagen fibers. After simmering to the desired constancy the glue can be used in carpentry and bookbinding. [Source: National Geographic]

U.S. fish producers outsource processing to China. Pacific salmon caught in U.S. Northwest and flounder caught off Alaska are shipped to China for processing. Even though the fish make a round-trip journey of up to 12,800 kilometers it is still cheaper preparing it this way than processing it in the United States. Processing salmon, which requires removing 36 pin bones, is best done by hand. The cost in China is 20 cents per pound compared to $1 per pound in the United States.

Pollock are de-headed and gutted on a ship that catches them in the Bering Sea. The fish are then frozen and sent to China , where they are boned, skinned and cut into portions ranging between 2 ounces and 6 ounces and shipped back to he United States. The transportation costs are 20 cents a pound.

The cost for removing meat from crabs at a processing center in Qingdao, China is one tenth what it is the the United States. Workers in Qingdao earn around $100 to $150 a month.

Japan is the third largest market for Chinese exporters for processed food and fish. Eels are a major export item to China. Most eels are produced Guangdong Province, China exported 46,646 tins of grilled eel, mostly to Japan.

Chinese Fishing Vessels

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Fishing on the Yangtze
Fishing vessels from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Russia, Poland and Spain range across all of the world oceans. They are sometimes found poaching in waters off Senegal, Argentina, Gambia, Ghana, Indonesia and the Philippines.

To meet its increasing demand for fish, China uses big freezer trawlers and is building a world-ranging fleet of its own. It is also buying up fishing rights agreements from small island nations.

A Philippine patrol boat arrested 62 Chinese fishermen working waters off of the disputed Spratly Islands.

For many years, a Chinese seaman from Hainan Island, Poon Lim, held the record for floating at sea in a raft and surviving. In November 1942, a vessel he was working on as a steward was sunk by a Nazi torpedo off of South Africa. He floated in an 8-foot wooden life raft for 133 days. The rafts had a few tins of biscuits, some water and a flashlight. He drank a cup of water and ate a biscuit each morning and evening, When that ran out he caught fish with a hook made from wire in the flashlight and captured birds he attracted with a fake nest and rotted fish. He drank rainwater and fish blood and managed to stay alive until he was rescued by fishermen off the coast of Brazil in April 1943.

Overfishing in China

The seas off northeast China have been overfished to the point that sea life such as yellow croakers, cuttlefish and sardines have largely disappeared.

Fish catch statistics coming out of China are sometimes inflated. In 1999, for example, China reported that it caught about 83 million tons of fish. The true figure was about 69 million tons. The over estimates gave the impression that worldwide fish populations were holding steady when in fact they were declining.

Fishermen inflated the figures because their income and futures depended on fulfilling quotas. If the numbers of fish the caught were reduced they could lose their jobs. The government made no effort to verify the fishy figures that were give them.

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10th century fish farming

Chinese Fish Farms

China is the world largest producer of farm-raised seafood, exporting billions of dollars of shrimp, catfish, tilapia, salmon and other fish, The United States imported about $2 billion of seafood products from China in 2007, almost double what it imported four years before. Both freshwater-and seawater-based fhhs farming are widely used. Many farms have a fish farm pond for raising carp. Seafood is raised in fish farms in the Bohai Gulf and other places.

In 2006, Chinese supplied 62 percent of the world’s farmed fish and shellfish according to the FAO. Some Chinese bays are so loaded down with net pens they are no longer navigable.

Fish farming is also known as aquiculture. It was invented 3,000 years ago by the Chinese, using waste from silk worm farm to feed carp raised in small freshwater-pond farms.

Top 5 fish farming countries (tons per year): 1) China (2,300,000); 2) India (600,000); 3) former USSR (300,000); 4) Japan (250,000); 5) Indonesia (240,000).

One in every three fish eaten worldwide is farm raised. And nearly 90 percent of those eaten comes from China. Fish and shellfish from China account for more than 60 percent of the world's total aquaculture production.

Farmed seafood is also produced in large quantities in India and Southeast Asia.

To make up for shortages from natural sources, Chinese have turned to aquaculture to meet demands for freshwater crabs, abalone and other aquatic life. The government offers incentives for fishermen to switch to aquaculture.

Problems with Chinese Fish Farms

Farmed seafood is often raised with little concern for the environment. Fish farming depletes grain supplies and deprives fish of coastal breeding grounds. The wild stocks in many coastal areas have all but disappeared. Unconsumed feed and excrement from fish farms have been blamed for polluting coastal areas and waterways.

Disease and pollution usually limit the life of fish and shrimp farms. Farmed fish are fed antibiotics and kept in close quarters. As a result diseases can spread quickly and fish can quickly build up resistance to disease.

Farmed fish need to eat between three and nine times their body weight to survive. That means more fish have to be caught to feed the farmed fish. By even the most conservative estimated two kilograms of wild fish is necessary to produce one kilogram of farmed fish. Large numbers of sandines, herring, menhaden and anchovies have to harvested in large numbers and ground up into pellets used as food for the farmed fish.

There are worries that Chinese-produced farmed fish might be tainted with melamine, the chemical added to fish and animal feed to boost protein readings that was at the root of milk contamination scandal in 2008. Melamine consumed by livestock is largely flushed out by the animals’s urinary tract but fish have a different metabolic system that makes it more likely for melamine residues to remain in the fish flesh that is eaten. If there is a problem it is rarely revealed. Fish of any kind are generally not checked for the presence of melamine.

In November 2008, 26 containers of shrimp, crawfish, tilapia and other fish from China were rejected for a variety of reasons: salmonella, unsafe additives, unapproved drugs and labeling problems.

See Fish and Seafood Problems, Food Safety, Food, Life

Saltwater Fish Farms in China

Some seawater farms raises several varieties of fish and seaweed in the same enclosure. Describing work at a seawater fish farm, AP reporter Elain Kortenbach wrote,"Zhang workers toil from dawn to dusk, grinding frozen fish feed into a paste, transporting plastic trays of it by hand, six or seven times a day, in net enclosures where the fish are raised in their usual ocean environment...The food disappears instantly in a teeming whirl of silver."

Describing the sorting of fish Kortenbach wrote,"Several dozen women in bright kerchiefs and rain capes sit on rafts amid the nets, using hand held strainers to sort fish by size, to ensure that bigger don't eat smaller."

The costs of saltwater aquaculture include fish kills and red tides caused by the release of phosphate-laden waste water and other kinds of pollution,

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Freshwater fish farm

Freshwater Fish Farms in China

Freshwater fish farming dates back to the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century. Traditional fish farms raised several species of carp---grass, bighead, silver, common and mud cap---together. Each type either feeds on grass and aquatic life, plankton and organic matter on the bottom.

The Chinese have traditionally raised four kinds of fish in freshwater fish farms: 1) carp that fed on zooplankton, 2) carp that fed on phytoplankton 3) carp that feed on grass, and 4) carp feed on detritus. They live together in an balanced sustainable, ecologically-sound way.

Freshwater fish farms are replacing traditional agricultural plots. Many people has fish ponds on their farms.. Fish in southern China are caught in lakes with mesh fish traps, and are raised backyard fish ponds.

Some farmers raise fish in flooded rice paddies. The fish feed on weeds and insects. Their waste fertilizers crops.

Shrimp Farms

On quarter of all the shrimp produced are raise on shrimp farms. Top shrimp farming nations in terms of weight: 1) Thailand; 2) China; 3) Indonesia; 4) Vietnam; and 5) Bangladesh.

Virus devastated farmed stocks in Ecuador and China in the mid-1990s. Shrimp production declined from 220,000 tons in 1991 to 60,000 tons in 1994. The devastating epidemic caused by poor management and overstocking. It swept through China's shrimp and prawn ponds in the early 1990s. As of the late 1990s the industry had not recovered.

In July 2004, the United States tentatively set tariffs in shrimp from China and Vietnam as low as 7.6 percent and as high as 112.8 percent after finding that exporters had illegally been dumping shrimp in the United States. See Vietnam

China Exports Banned European Eel to Japan

Japan has been importing from China large quantities of European eel, an endangered species whose export from Europe is forbidden. The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Importers of the eels claim the trading is legitimate, with export certificates from Chinese authorities. However, the Fisheries Agency plans to ask Beijing to investigate the exports. The agency is skeptical of the explanations provided by the Chinese side that European eels shipped to Japan could have matured in 2013 from eel fry imported to China from France in 2010. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, July 24, 2014 ^=^]

“The European Union banned the export of the eel, which do not breed outside of Europe, in December of the same year after it was designated as an endangered species by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as the Washington Convention. If the Chinese side’s claims are true, it means the eels were farmed in China for at least three years and seven months. Eel fry are usually farmed for about a year in Japan, while the Chinese side insists the average period in China is two years. ^=^

But an industry expert says that eels farmed for more than one year tend to become hard and unsuitable for eating. Others argue it is unlikely that eels would be raised for such a long time out of consideration for economic efficiency. The agency will ask China to reveal details on whether the traceability of the eels from farming to shipment has been properly managed, as it considers the farming period of the European eel imported to Japan to be too long. ^=^

“My guess is that eel fry have been smuggled from Europe to China after the export ban was imposed,” an importer of the European eels said. According to trade statistics, 55.8 tons, or about 223,000 European eels, that were alive and originated in France were shipped to Japan via China from January to May. This year’s imports will likely set a new record.The export of European eels to China increased in 1990s, but catches of European eels saw a sharp drop. The species was listed in Appendix II of the Washington Convention in 2009, as it may face extinction if no restrictions are imposed on trade. Though species listed in Appendix II can be traded when an exporting country allows it, the EU placed a total ban on its export in 2010. ^=^

Cormorant Fishing, Caviar and Otter Fishing

See Animals

In some places you can still find people fishing with trained otters with chains around their neck.

Sea cucumbers, See Japan.

Caviar is harvested from sturgeon caught on the China side of the Amur River.

In China, the Yangtze sturgeon and its cousin the Chinese paddlefish are nearly extinct and the Three Gorges dam is expected to finish them off.

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Logging truck


Forestry products, measured in annual roundwood production, also abound. In 2004 China produced an estimated 284 million cubic meters of roundwood, the world’s third largest supplier after the United States and India, or about 8.5 percent of total world production. From the roundwood, some 11.3 million cubic meters of sawnwood are produced annually. [Source: Library of Congress]

China is quickly becoming the world’s leading importer of wood from tropical developing countries like Indonesia, Myanmar and Papua New Guinea, where illegal logging is rampant. It also imports large amounts of wood from Russia and Canada. Much of the illegally logged timber from Southeast Asia ends up in China A cargo ship from New Guinea arrives every week at a port near Shanghai, loaded with 300,000 cubic meters of merbau logs. A third of the exports from logging mills deep in the Amazon rain forest end up in China, where much f it used top-quality hardwood floors. See Rain Forest Under World Topic

Demand from China for timber exploded in the early and mid 2000s much of it because of the rise of the cheap furniture in China that produces furniture for the American, European and Japanese markets. Very little money ends n the hands of those who cut the wood. One study founded that hardwood harvested at $11 a cubic meter in Papua Ne Guineas increases in value to $240 a cubic meter in China.

According to a report by the U.S.-bases Forest Trends and the International Forestry Research, China has captured a third of the global trade in furniture in the past eight years, with wood product exports to the United States and the European Union having increased almost 900 percent between 1998 and 2005 with 40 percent of all wood product imports ending up in the United States.

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Deforestation in Yunnan

Increased Demand for Timber

Some say that lumber could become the next commodity to soar in price as a result of Chinese demand. In one projection the price of lumber is predicted to rise 300 percent based on the need for wood to fuel the mass urbanization of China in 2010s.Already around 20 million Chinese move to the cities every year and that figure could rise. [Source: Leo Lewis, Times of London, January 2010]

One of the major factors spurring demand for lumber is a new building code in Shanghai for wood frame structures. Wood will be needed for lumber to build new houses but also to furnish them with new tables, chairs and desks.

Countries with vast forests---namely Russia and Canada’stand to gain handsomely from a surge in demand. It could be bad news for China’s dwindling forest and rain forest in tropical countries that are already under pressure from both legal and illegal logging.

Paper in China

China is the number No. 2 paper consumer in the world after the United States Paper consumption increased from 14.6 million tons in 1990 to 48 million tons in 2003 and is expected to rise to 68.5 million tons in 2010. That would raise China’s demand for wood pulp to 15.1 million tons---the equivalent of about half the Brazilian Amazon current annual timber harvest---for 9.2 million in 2003.

Top 5 paper producers (millions of tons per year): 1) USA (71.5); 2) Japan (28); 3) Canada (16.4); 4) China (13.7); 5) Germany (11.8).

If Chinese were to consume the same amount of paper as Americans, let say in 20 years, when China’s population reaches 1.45 billion, then China would consume double the world’s current production of 161 million tons.

Paper in China grass, rice stalks or bamboo in China. Paper is made from wood pulp in the United States

As demand increase, China must look increasingly abroad in part because of logging bans at home and the closure of small, polluting mills that used agricultural residues

China’s demand for paper has caused prices for recycled paper to rise, sparking paper battles in Japan (See Japan). One of China’s richest people---a woman named Zhang Yin---made her fprtune importing recycled paper from the United States (See Rich, People and Life).

Chinese demand for paper has also fueled paper mill expansion in China and accelerated deforestation in places like Indonesia and the Mekong region . In some cases the mills are built without a source of raw material worked and this in turn provides an incentive to illegally log sources of raw materials such virgin forests.

Rubber in China

China is the world’s leading consumer of rubber (3,640,500 tons). China is now a large vehicle and tire producer and consumer.

Image Sources: 1) All Posters com Search Chinese Art ; 2) Louis Perrochon ; 3) University of Washington; 4, 5) Nolls China website ; 6) Mongabey

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated July 2015

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