China is, believe it or not, the world's largest consumer and producer of fish. To literally feed this addiction to fish, aquaculture (farming of fish in ponds, lakes, and tanks) has boomed in the country in the last 25 years. China also has a long history of fish farms. According to historical records, fish farms started around 3,000 years ago. It wasn't until the 1990's that it kicked off on an industrial scale, however. The industry exploded when it was commercialized around 25 years ago.
According to Dr. Sun Tao, a marine expert from Beijing University, "China has a very long history of fish farming around the coast and river deltas but it really took off as an industry in the 1990s." When talking to the Daily Mail, Dr. Tao further explained that "The farmers generally live above the water on floating homes and they are largely small-scale family operations."
According to latest released figures, China's aquaculture has become very large indeed. Estimates claim around 32 million tons per year, that's almost two-thirds of the world's production.
The farms have also become a tourist attraction
In the coastal waters of the Bohai Sea, the Yellow Sea, The East China Sea, and the South China Sea, China has built extensive fish farms. These fish farms are used to cultivate marine crustaceans such as shrimps, oysters, and fish in raised man-made enclosures.
Each farm is created by building enclosures using floating nets that are interconnected with wooden pathways and platforms. Houses and huts are also constructed on the floating structures to provide housing for their entire family. The scale of these structures is truly awe-inspiring. In Louyuan Bay in south-eastern China's Fujian province, many floating farms have been built to cultivate shellfish that are considered delicacies. They are often seen in Asian banquets and exchanged as gifts.
This specialized branch of aquaculture has become so big that it has even begun to attract many tourists. So large are the farms at Louyuan, in fact, that they almost cover the entire bay. Farms like this contribute to China's estimated £25 Billion fish farm industry.
Unfortunately for China, production has taken a hit in recent years. Problems with overfishing, pollution and poor farming practices have several hampered biodiversity. The farmers blame pollution as the main problem but environmentalists believe that overfishing is the main reason for the decimated fish stocks. In some cases, some fish species are hard to find now. To help correct this problem, every year there is a three-month ban on fishing to allow stocks to recover. But even this extreme measure has not rectified the problem completely.