Proceedings of the Third World Fisheries Congress: Feeding the World with Fish in the Next Millenium—The Balance between Production and Environment

Present Situation and Developing Prospects of Pond Fisheries in China

Liang Yongjun, Pan Qiansheng


Freshwater fish culture is a profitable undertaking that requires low investment and provides quick results at a low cost. Its meat production rate is the highest of all forms of animal culture, and many countries have been actively developing freshwater fish culture because freshwater fish is a primary source of animal protein. The problem of fry supply often can be easily solved. In addition, production can be vertically integrated with the use of agricultural byproducts in fish culture. The development of agriculture, fisheries, and animal husbandry can support each another.

China is the largest producer of freshwater aquaculture products in the world (Zhang et al. 1989; Liu et al. 1992). The total output of aquatic products from freshwater culture in 1993 was about 6.48 million tons (Fishery Bureau of China 1994). China has one of the largest freshwater areas— about 20 million hectares, of which 10 million hectares are rivers, 6.3 million hectares are lakes, 1.7 million hectares are ponds, and 1.6 million hectares are reservoirs. One-third of this area (about 7 million hectares) and 10 million hectares of paddy fields also can be used for fish culture (Li 1995).

In the 1980s, Chinese aquaculture entered a rapid stage of development. In 2000, the yield of aquatic products in China was approximately 20% of world production (Hu 1994). In this time, Chinese culture techniques have changed greatly while the total output of aquatic products has increased significantly. Most notably, freshwater fishery has shifted its focus from depending on natural resources to extensive artificial fish farming. Furthermore, great progress has been made in the freshwater aquaculture industry, which includes not only the traditional pond fisheries but also capture fisheries (e.g., lakes, reservoirs, and brooks used for large-scale cultivation) and intensive cultivation (e.g., cage fish farming, running water culture, and paddy-cum-fish culture).

Chinese fisheries have also progressed in other aspects to varying degrees, such as in technological measures, theory of freshwater culture research in seedling production, expansion of farm species, domestication of new species, prevention and control of fish diseases, species diversification, commercialization and standardization of feed resources, preservation and processing of fishery and aquatic products, and transportation of live fish. In China, the total area of fishponds is 1,596 thousand hectares, and the yield was 4.9 million tons of fish in 1993 (Fishery Bureau of China 1994). The total area of large and medium-sized water bodies (lakes, reservoirs, and rivers used for fish cultivation) was 2,474 thousand hectares and produced 1.24 million tons of fish. The area of paddy fields for fish farming was about 798 thousand hectares and produced 185 thousand tons of fish. The area of other fishery methods (net cage culture, running water culture, and industrialized fish farming) covered about 90 thousand hectares, and the fish yield was 154 thousand tons (Fishery Bureau of China 1994, 1995).

Pond fish culture is the mainstay system for Chinese freshwater fish; it can be easily controlled and produce a high yield per unit area. China has a long, rich history in pond fish polyculture. The mulberry dike–fishpond, sugar cane dike–fishpond, and integrated fish farming systems are traditional patterns that can make use of the waste materials of agriculture and animal husbandry, promote the cycle of materials in pond ecosystems, and lead to high fish yields. These kinds of fishery models are feasible for application to developing countries to augment their fish products.