Eels Farming History
In the 1950s, Taiwan started exporting elvers, or young eels, caught along its west coast to aquaculture operators in Japan. With the island a leading supplier to Japan in the 1980s and early 1990s, its share of the market reached an all-time high of 70 percent in 1993, contributing US$605 million to Taiwan’s economy. Taiwan’s eels farming started to take off and it was further hastened by technological developments in this field. It not only earned a lot of foreign exchange for the country but also prospered the fishing village economy and improved the livelihood of fishermen. The peak value of the breeding industry had reached a revenue of US$560 million in 1991, which accounted for more than half of the Japanese market supply at that time. By 2007, eel was the nation’s No. 1 farmed fish in terms of export value, accounting for 13.3% that year. This was followed by tilapia at 5.3% and milkfish at 1.3%. Today, a total of 2,313 hectares is dedicated to eel farming, with more than 90% of products shipped to Japan.
It is always necessary to bring a solid and comprehensive management system to the farming, processing and selling areas in this industry. Starting from a fishery registration certificate, all processing factories, transporters, traders, etc., should comply with licensing regulations in order for authorities to fully grasp the production, quality, marketing dynamics, and industry outlook. Instead of focusing more on “improving production”, we should consider the pursuit of “improving quality”. Therefore, from the time of stocking, the source, feed brand, quality, aquatic environment, drug usage during the cultivation period, and the pre-marketing sanitation inspections have explicit specifications and self-discipline guidelines. Also, the authorities provide certificates to the qualified applicants and guidance for production and sales.
According to the research report, if the cultivation is poorly managed, the incidence of eels’ sickness will be as high as 56% and the mortality rate will be about 15-23%. The average loss per hectare is estimated to be about NT$0.7 million (Liao, 2003). Obviously, once the eels get sick, it will not only result in a serious loss of the income to the farmers but also affect the stable development of the eel industry. Now China and South Korea have successively joined the competition in the Japanese export market. The key to success in the export market is nothing more than the hygiene and quality of the product. This is because some of the bad products in the past have been returned by Japan or the European Union. Therefore, the control of farming pond’s environment, the health management, the prevention and treatment of sickness in eels are particularly important for ensuring the quality of products and the development of eel farming industries.