Fish Processing

Artistic scene of China coast.

Bullet    Main activities and types of products processed

Bullet    Seafood processing capacity

Bullet    Major types of processed fish products

Bullet    Production of processed products

Bullet    Processing companies

Bullet    Quality standards

Main activities and types of products processed

Before 1970s, processing of fishery products depended on very simple methods, primarily on the knifes and salt in very small scale, and therefore, fishermen had to go fishing with salt on the boats.  As a result, the qualities of the catches were usually not good.  It often happened that the seafood had spoiled before reaching consumers in cities due to backward storage facilities. 

The country’s reform policies, starting at the end of 1970s, have vitalized the seafood processing industry.  Especially, after 1980s when the market prices of seafood were totally liberalized, the great changes have taken place.  Instead of rough processing, the modern processing techniques have been applied to various fish products.  The former salted products now have mainly been replaced by frozen or cold stored products; the big package by small package; and the glass container by the soft tin container.

In recent years, domestic cold storage has developed rapidly in terms of number of units and scale.  For the moment, China possesses 5362 seafood processing enterprises including 732 the State-owned.  The processing capacities are listed as Table 15.

Table 15  Seafood processing capacity of China in 1996








Processing capacity




Cold storage




Freezing capacity




Cold storing capacity




Ice making capacity





A multi-variety processing system has been formulated in which fish, shrimp, mussels and algae are the main stored products.  Activities of seafood processing include cold storing, freezing, drying, smoking, canning etc.  The major types of processed products are categorized as follows:

Bullet    frozen products

Bullet    dried products

Bullet    smoked products

Bullet    canned products

Bullet    surimi products

Bullet    fish meal

Bullet    products made by fish oil and fish liver

Bullet    additives and seasoning products

Bullet    medicines

Bullet    alga glue

Bullet    art craft (pearl)

Table 16  Production of processed products in 1996 (ton)

Total volume

By State-owned Enterprises

Total of processed products


















Fish protein (fish meal)






Seasoning products










Although the sector has gained a great development, there is still a long way to go to meet the increasing demands as at present only about 30% of the total seafood are processed, whereas most of them are still sold on the markets directly from the farms, especially fresh water fish.  Among all the processed seafood, most of the share is developed into frozen products, and then in turn dried, smoked, surimi, canned etc. 

 The major constrains facing to the sector now are:

Bullet    weak infrastructures

Bullet    lack of funds

Bullet    backward management

Bullet    consumer’s habit, most consumers, especially in the south, like live seafood.

3.2    Companies involved in processing

There are about 5362 companies involved in fish seafood processing industry, of which 732 are the State-owned as indicated in the table 15.  Collective and private owned enterprises have developed rapidly, accounting for more than 80% in terms of numbers.   As demand for processed products is growing quickly, operators are investing heavily in the modernization and expansion of the production facilities and the joint ventures have been becoming active in this sector.  Besides China National Fishery Corporation (CNFC) which has some sub-companies distributed in Yantai of Shandong province, Zhoushan of Zhejiang province and Zhanjiang of Guangdong province, most of local marine fishery corporations have their own subordinate seafood processing plants or companies.  The major companies involved in fish processing activities are:

Bullet    China National Fishery Corporation (CNFC)

Bullet    Dalian Marine fishery General Co., Liaoning Province

Bullet    Dalian Municipal Fishery Co. Group, Liaoning Province

Bullet    Dalian Municipal Aquaculture Co., Liaoning Province

Bullet    Qingdao Marine Fishery Co., Shandong Province

Bullet    Qingdao Haifeng Co. Group. Ltd., Shandong Province

Bullet    Yangkou Marine Fishery General Co., Souguang, Shandong Province

Bullet    Shidao Marine Fishery General Co., Rongchen, Shandong Province

Bullet    Tianjin Fishery Product Supplying & Marketing Co., Tianjin

Bullet    Longshan Eel Union Co., Jiangshu Province

Bullet    Shanghai Fishery Co. Group, Shanghai

Bullet    Zhoushan Marine Fishery Co. (CNFC), Zhejiang Province

Bullet    Xingye Co. Ltd., Zhoushan Municipality, Zhejiang Province

Bullet    Haihong General Co., Taizhou, Zhejiang Province

Bullet    Fujian Marine Fishery General Co., Fujian Province

Bullet    Huasun Food Industry Co. Ltd., Fujian Province

Bullet    Golden Eel Co. Ltd., Guangdong Province

Bullet    Beihai Marine Fishery Co., Guangxi Province

Unlike the coastal areas, inland fish processing industry are less developed.  However, in the major production areas like Jiangshu, Anhui, Hubei, Hunan and Jiangxi, the processing enterprises can also be found, mainly producing frozen fish, head and viscera removed fish, surimi and fish leather.

3.3    The quality standards

As rising demand has led to higher prices, both quality and standards have improved.  Differences in prices for different species, standards and quality grades have increased, giving producers and distributors a much better incentive for supplying high quality seafood.  In order to enhance seafood quality control, China has currently carried out the principle of security management.  The national authorities have issued a serial laws, regulations and standards related to seafood quality control such as The Product Quality Law, The Food Hygiene Law, The Standardization Law and The Commodity Inspection Law, and instructed The Ministry of Agriculture, The State Technique Monitoring Bureau and The State Import-Export Commodity Inspection Bureau work together for seafood quality control.

For those exported seafood, China primarily adapts the existing international standards or the standards and regulations by targeted countries in order to meet their demands.  For example, the processing method for baked eel exported to Japan is based on the requirements by Japanese Government and the traders.

To ensure the quality of exported seafood, the processing enterprises have been gradually instructed to follow the international quality management system, such as HACCP created by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Seafood Quality Management Criteria by Canadian Fishery and Marine Ministry and the related regulations by the European Union.

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