Environmental Conservation


Historical, cultural and social perspectives on luxury seafood consumption in China


a1 ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia


Since China is a leading market for a number of types of seafood, and much of this seafood is imported from other countries, Chinese consumption of seafood is an issue of vital importance to many of the world's fisheries. Focusing on luxury seafood, in particular bêche-de-mer, shark fin and live reef food fish, this paper firstly examines the links between Chinese consumption and species population trends in source countries. After a discussion of current efforts at conservation and management of these fisheries, the paper shows how the consumption of luxury seafood in contemporary China is intertwined with broader historical trends, including the expansion of Southern Chinese cuisine; cultural beliefs and traditions, in particular surrounding elements of traditional Chinese medicine; and most importantly, notions of social status and conspicuous consumption linked to the development of the Chinese economy and social stratification. The paper points to the role of the historical, cultural and social processes that underlie Chinese luxury seafood consumption, and to the need for greater levels of action among various actors to address this consumption if sustainability is to be achieved.

(Received August 17 2011)

(Accepted September 08 2011)

(Online publication November 24 2011)


c1 Correspondence: Dr Michael Fabinyi Tel: + 61 7 4781 6358 e-mail: michael.fabinyi@jcu.edu.au