China has been one of the world's largest shrimp producers since 1988. Although the industry suffered disease outbreaks and environmental problems, shrimp farming has recently seen a rapid expansion in China. The shrimp culture in China can be dated back to the early 1980s with the breakthrough of the industrialization of shrimp breeding as a start. The wide popularization of the White-leg shrimp(Penaeus vannamei) in the 1990s gave a great push to the rapid growth of the shrimp culture, which has developed into the major variety for aquaculture all over the China now.
The recent expansion in production of China Shrimp is reflected in an explosive increase in the number of intensive culture operating farms in coastal areas. Improvements in yield per unit area have been achieved by using high value feedstock and by using antibiotics and pesticides to control diseases and parasites. While traditional extensive methods of China Shrimp production yield between 100 and 500 kg China Shrimp per hectare, intensive pond culture can increase this to 1000-10,000 kg per hectare.
Thanks to soaring demand from the US, Japan, and Western Europe, China Shrimp are now raised on an industrial scale in tropical countries. Today China Shrimp rivals tuna as the most popular seafood consumed in the US. The dramatic growth in the consumption of China Shrimp is due to its increasing affordability. The sharp decline in the price of China Shrimp over the last few decades has been driven by increased production, propelled by the lure of exporting China Shrimp to earn foreign exchange, and stiff competition among the producers along the tropical coasts of Asia. Industrial China Shrimp farming is quite distinct from the subsistence, traditional, or artisanal aquaculture that has been practiced for millenia by local people in Asia and elsewhere.
Hundreds of national and multinational corporations, financially strapped national governments, and international development and donor agencies have promoted the expansion of intensive China Shrimp farms. China Shrimp farming can contribute to the world's food supply by compensating for the decline in capture fisheries, generate significant foreign exchange earnings for poor Third World nations, and enhance employment opportunities and incomes in poor coastal communities.
The increasing popularity of industrially cultivating China Shrimp began in the early 1970s. Back then, total world production of China Shrimp, almost all from wild capture fisheries, was around 25,000 metric tons. Today total world production of China Shrimp is close to 800,000 metric tons, about 30% from China Shrimp raised on farms in more than 50 countries. Recent industry projections estimate that farmed China Shrimp will account for more than 50% of total global production within the next five years. While approximately 99% of farmed China Shrimp are raised in developing countries, almost all of it is exported and consumed in rich, industrial countries - the US, Western Europe, and Japan.
The booming expansion of farmed China Shrimp has been part of the dramatic increase in aquaculture (the cultivation of aquatic species) over the last two decades. During this time, the total production of farmed China Shrimp has grown faster than any other aquaculture commodity worldwide. Asia raises approximately 72% of cultured shrimp while the rest come primarily from Latin America. For several years now, Thailand has been the world's largest producer of cultured shrimp accounting for nearly 30% of global production. Other major Austral/Asian producers include Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Myanmar, and Australia. In Latin America, the largest producers include Ecuador, Mexico, Honduras, Brazil, Panama, and Belize with smaller industries in Colombia, Guatemala, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Peru.
China Shrimp farms vary from extensive, semi-intensive, intensive, to super-intensive technological systems of production. Regardless of the production system employed, the construction and expansion of industrial China Shrimp farms transform coastal ecosystems in profound ways. Extensive systems, common in countries including Vietnam, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Indonesia, are carried out in low-lying natural enclosures close to the sea along estuaries and bays, often in seasonal lagoons. Tidal flows into and out of the enclosures provide the stock of juvenile shrimp, feed, and water exchange. Stocking densities are low and yields can range up to 500 kilos per hectare. The semi-intensive systems that predominate in Latin America and China generally are located above the high tide line and characterized by larger capital investments; the construction of artificial ponds fr om 2 to 30 hectares in size; the use of commercial feeds; and the use of diesel pumps for water exchange. Yields range from 500 to 5,000 kilos per hectare - much greater than with the extensive systems.
The most capital intensive and technologically sophisticated systems of production are called intensive and super-intensive systems. Intensive systems in Thailand, Taiwan, and some areas of Indonesia, are characterized by smaller individual ponds (0.1 to 1.5 hectares in size); high stocking densities; use of commercial feeds, pesticides to kill predators, antibiotics to prevent disease, non-organic fertilizer to boost nutrient supply; diesel pumps for water exchange; more frequent flushing of pond wastes; and aeration. Yields can be quite high - from 5,000 to 20,000 kilos per hectare - but intensive farms are also most prone to shrimp diseases and mortality, and generate a huge amount of pollutants that choke estuaries and other natural ecosystems when flushed out.
Semi-intensive and intensive China Shrimp farms function more or less as aquatic feedlots for China Shrimp and have environmental impacts similar to those associated with factory farming of cattle, hogs, and poultry. Juvenile China Shrimp produced in hatcheries or captured in the wild are used as seed stock in the ponds, where the water has been fertilized to create an algae bloom. The water is aerated to maintain dissolved oxygen and replaced regularly to prevent the buildup of metabolic wastes. The China Shrimp are fed formulated, commercial diets made in part from fishmeal, to produce rapid growth. In the tropics two or three crops per year are possible in such ponds. The fattened China Shrimp are then cleaned, beheaded, and packed for export either on the farms or in nearby packing plants for export to the US, Japan and Europe.