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A Brief History of Eel Farming

Many gourmets, especially Chinese and Japanese, are addicted to eating eel for its tonic effect; on the contrary, in Europe and America, most of the people don't like it because it looks like snake. Only some people in several European countries, like UK, Netherlands, France, Spain, Denmark, Greece, eat eels, so most of the eel farms in Europe are located in these countries. They usually prepare it by fumigation. Spanish especially like young eels. Every Christmas season, Spanish eat several tons of young eels. However, the real kingdom of eating eels is Japan.

Eels have been believed as tonic in Japan for a very long time. In July, on a day called 'USHINOHI', all Japanese, mo matter rich or poor, will eat eels for its nourishing. As early as 1879, Japanese have begun to breed eels because of the lack of wild eels. But Japan's winters are too cold, and eels will stop eating and grow up very slowly when the water temperature is below 20”ĘC. When occupying Taiwan, Japanese tried to breed eels in Taiwan, but failed. After 1952, Japanese eels expert Dr. Kai Matsui, cooperated with China Fishery Company, Taiwan, succeeded finally in Tau Yuan. In Mainland China, eels were not farmed until 1970s.

Association of Eel Farming of Japan introduced Anguilla anguilla eel-fry, which is much cheaper than Anguilla japonica eel-fry, to Japan in 1967. Unfortunately, the ignorance to the nature of Anguilla anguilla and the burst of Novel Catfish Kidney Disease caused numerous death of eel-fry. From then on, eel farmers in Japan have been frightened and watchful on Anguilla anguilla eel-fry. Some lawbreaking merchants, who took advantage of the ignorance of eel farmers in Taiwan, Mainland China and South Korea to Anguilla anguilla and Anguilla rostrata and deceive that they are Anguilla japonica, defrauded them of their money for more than 100 millions RMB yuan. The poor eel farmers who didn't know the facts almost lost all their wealth. From 1990 to 1992, many of the leading cadres of eel farms, local officers and bank loan makers in Mainland China committed suicide or were removed from the office because of this kind of incidents.

Our company introduced French eel-fry into Mainland China for trial in 1992 together with farming experiences of Denmark. Fortunately, some fish farms succeeded this time. The revival rate of eels increased from less than 20% in 1993 to almost 70% in 2000. Almost 70% of eel farms in China breed Anguilla anguilla in recent years, owing to its great output and lower costs. It once happened that every Anguilla japonica eel-fry cost only 3 US dollars.

Japan's reputation as the kingdom of eel farming was taken over by Taiwan in 1980s; and till 1990s, Mainland China finally became the new kingdom of eel farming. However, Japan has been being the biggest eel market. Eel farming business in Taiwan, Mainland China and South Korea was controlled by Japan before economy of those areas developed. People in those areas couldn't afford the high prices at that time, so how could they bargain with Japanese buyers? Along with the openness of China economy and development of Taiwan and South Korea, people of these areas have an increasing demand. Eel farming business in these areas doesn't depend mainly on Japan any more. In Japan, because of the very high prices of land and labour and taste changing of new generations, demand of eel shrinks. Eel farming business becomes sunset industry in Japan now.

Copyright by Wai Kee Industrial Co.