Crayfish collected from Guolian farm, which is the first crayfish farm in the world to achieve ASC certification.

Paddy-field crayfish farm wins world-first ASC certification


A Chinese crayfish farm has become the first in the world to earn Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification for responsible seafood farming.

Guolian (Yiyang) Crayfish Breeding Biotechnology Company Ltd’s farm is located on the Guolian (Yiyang) Crayfish Breeding Scientific Research Base in the city of Yiyang in Hunan Province.

The 850-hectare (2,100-acre) research base is an industry, academia and research collaboration between Guolian and the Chinese Academy of Engineering. The farm’s annual capacity is 2,000 tonnes of Red Swamp Crayfish (Procambarus clarkii).

“We’re proud to be the first ASC certified crayfish farm in the world,” said Guolian Aquaculture Group president Chen Han.

“ASC certification is an internationally renowned and highly recognised gold standard in the aquaculture industry. Obtaining it is a full validation of Guolian’s active efforts to transform and improve crayfish farming.”

Technical challenges

Dr Li Changbin, technical director of Guolian’s Crayfish Breeding Scientific Research Base, said that in order to achieve ASC certification the company changed its farming practices in several ways.

“To meet the requirements of the ASC standard, we faced major technical challenges - for instance, in the selection of seeds and with escape management. At the same time, we’ve met the other requirements such as for water quality, disease prevention and control, and feed.”

The ASC Shrimp Standard, which also includes crayfish, requires traceability of seeds, or young crayfish, to ensure those used on the farm come from high-quality stock. If the quality of seed crayfish is poor and the survival rate is too low, it cannot meet the ASC requirements. When the quality of seeds is good, the survival rate, spawning rate and hatching rate are high, which ensures that ecological resources for the farm have been utilised sustainably.

ASC certification also requires robust escape management practices. Although crayfish have been farmed in China for nearly 100 years, they are still an exotic species, and unregulated growth of crayfish in the wild is strictly restricted by Chinese law.

Crayfish are grown in rice paddies, and can increase the income of rice farmers by 200-300%.

The most suitable habitats for crayfish in China are in the Yangtze River Basin, where rice paddy farmers have historically struggled economically. In recent years, seasonal farming crayfish in rice paddies has become an important industry and alleviates poverty in agricultural communities in the region. Rice paddy crayfish farming can increase the income of local farmers by 200 to 300 percent, greatly improving the living standards of local communities. To achieve balance between the economic benefits of crayfish farming and the ecological need to manage an exotic species, escape prevention is a core requirement to achieve ASC certification.

Along with other efforts, Guolian has installed protective fencing along the edges of the rice field and isolation nets at the entrance of the waterway to meet the ASC requirements for escape management.

Ecological protection

“We’re very pleased that Guolian has earned ASC certification and to see the increase overall of ASC certified responsible seafood farms in China,” said ASC chief executive Chris Ninnes.

“The robust requirements of the ASC standard are improving ecological protection of cropland-aquaculture in China, improving quality at the seafood farms and contributing to improved livelihoods for local communities.”

China’s annual production of crayfish farming reached 2.5 million tonnes in 2022, making it the world’s largest crayfish producer. Global markets for crayfish include the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden.