When there is No More Wild Yellow Croaker

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NewsChina, Hong Kong, China

Like most people's view towards the boundless and resourceful ocean, even Thomas Huxley, the then president of Britain's Royal Society once claimed in his 1883 inaugural address to the International Fisheries Exhibition in London that "all the great sea fisheries are inexhaustible". However, since 1990s, fishermen across the world started to notice significant downsizing of wild fish resource in the ocean and the world began to gradually realize that for some parts of the regions, overfishing was causing biggest threat to fish lives, particularly some specific species including the Bluefin tuna and the Atlantic cod.

Take Atlantic cod for example, on average, according to CBCnews report, “about 300,000 tonnes of cod were landed annually until the 1960s, when advances in technology enabled factory trawlers to take larger catches. By 1968, landings for the fish peaked at 800,000 tonnes before a gradual decline set in. In 2007, offshore cod stocks were estimated at one per cent of what they were in 1977.” Because of overfishing, the "Atlantic cod" is now labeled VU (vulnerable) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

For Chinese fish consumers, the Atlantic ocean might be a little bit far away and the cod is accordingly not as familiar a fish species for dietary, but a very similar situation is facing a local fish species currently in the country’s neighboring Pacific ocean. The Yellow croaker, a common fish species for almost every Chinese has been proved a great population collapse since the 1970s. Apart from its delicacy and nutrition as a common fish species, its bladder is said to have medicinal effects. Thus the demand for large-sized Yellow croaker consumption surged in the past decades, further threatened the development and recovery of its population.

As one of the most economically important fish species in China, it is mainly distributed in coastal regions of East Asia, from Yellow Sea to South China Sea, especially in the coasts of Zhejiang and Fujian provinces of China. At early 1970s, the annual captured amount of wild large yellow croaker was more than 100,000 tons. However, because of overfishing, the nature resource had severely declined since 1970s, and it had nearly exhausted from the middle of 1980s to the end of 1990s. So far wild yellow croaker is hardly seen on the market, and the market is dominated by the mariculture industry for this particular species. However, a series of problems including over-density of mariculture and deterioration of environment had been emerged apart from frequent diseases and poor taste.