Human Journey

Sustainability Lessons From China: Low Footprint Fish Farms

Would you be surprised to learn that China is a world leader in sustainable seafood?  This video shows how fish farmers in China use some ingenious and low-impact traditional methods to produce more fish than any other country.

It’s Slow Food on a massive scale, it’s permaculture, and it tastes great.  Along with fish, the farms produce lovely Chinese silk.  If this was being done by hyper-educated urban refugees, it would be on the front cover of fancy magazines.

Carp are grown in ponds and the rich mud containing fish manure is used to fertilize mulberry bushes.  The mulberry leaves are fed to silkworms, and after they make silk, the silkworm dung and pupae are fed to the fish.  Scientific studies show efficient recycling of energy and nutrients in this thrifty and low-waste system for producing food and a cash crop.

Modernization is putting pressure on these traditional fish farming systems, as land and labor costs go up.  Fortunately, scientists in China are looking for ways to retain the ecological value of these fish farming methods as farmers strive for higher income.

Can China succeed where most of the West has failed, retaining traditional food production systems that could lead to a truly “green” economy?

Mark Powell is an ocean conservationist who works for WWF International in Switzerland. He has many varied ocean experiences, including diving in a submersible to study hydrothermal vents over a mile below the surface, commercial fishing, swimming the 41 miles around Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, and being a marine sciences professor.
  • reesha jenkins

    i agree with this

  • ChowT

    Good article. Can we have more of these?

  • Rick Samio

    I can only guess that you have not seen the Pig manure they use for feed on fishfarms

    • It’s true that manure is used as an organic fertilizer in fish farms. The manure fertilizes the growth of aquatic plants which are then food for herbivorous fish in the ponds. This is low-input fish farming, and it has some real advantages over the use of commercial fish feed that is high in ocean-derived fishmeal. Have you seen the use of manure in terrestrial agriculture? It can smell bad when manure is applied, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.

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