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Farms to Provide 70 Percent of Fish
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At least 70 percent of fish available on the Chinese market will be from farms rather than the sea within five years, agricultural officials said yesterday in Beijing.


The country will highlight conservation of aquatic resources by imposing seasonal fishing bans and downsizing the fishing fleet, Vice Minister of Agriculture Niu Dun told a national conference.


"While securing a steady growth in catch, we must continuously improve quality and safety levels of aquatic products," he told provincial aquatic bureau chiefs yesterday.


To meet surging consumption, the size of the country's fishery catch is projected to expand from 51 million tons in 2005 to 60 million tons by 2010, Niu said.


By then at least 70 percent of the output will come from aquaculture (fish farming) instead of offshore fishing, he said. The current ratio is estimated at 67 percent, according to Niu.


To reverse over-fishing and avoid depletion of fishery resources, China will continue to secure negative growth in offshore fishing until 2010, when offshore catch will be capped at 12 million tons, he said.


While aquaculture is being advocated to support farmers' income growth, the country is determined to change the rearing method of feeding fish in the farms with fries, Niu said.


Each year, at least three million tons of fish fries are caught and used as food and bait for larger fish in the farms, a practice detrimental to protection of both environment and resources, according to the ministry sources.


In addition to prioritizing the development of aquaculture industry over offshore fishing, the country will continue to impose seasonal bans in all Chinese seas and the Yangtze River.


Over the past few years, the central and local budgets have earmarked more than one billion yuan (US$123 million) to take 14,000 fishing boats out of operation and transfer affected fishermen to new jobs, according to Niu. Such policies will continue in the coming years, he said.


While drawing lessons from contamination of aquatic products by antibiotic chloramphenicol and malachite green in recent years, the country needs also to tackle fish diseases.


An initial survey in dozens of fish farms nationwide last year found 126 varieties of fish diseases, which incurred a loss of 15 billion yuan (US$1.85 billion), according to Li Jianhua, director of the Fisheries Bureau under the ministry.


Outbreaks of the diseases among fish have, to some extent, led to overuse of certain fish drugs, which have consequently added to the potential perils in the quality of aquatic products, Li said.


The bureau will examine aquatic product export centers to ensure they have kept daily logs on aquaculture production and drug use, he said.


In addition to improving the aquatic disease reporting system, the bureau will hold pilot workshops on safe use of aquatic drugs for fish farmers next year, he said.


(China Daily December 28, 2005)

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