South Korea: A Natural Location for Aquaculture Growth

By Chris Lee
ICA Country Manager and Project Manager Copper Aquaculture, South Korea


A copper-alloy mesh cage in Goseong, South Korea


South Korea, a peninsula surrounded by the East, West and South Seas, is home to a growing aquaculture industry. In fact, commercial aquaculture has been practiced in the Korean peninsula for more than 300 years. Over the last 30 years the aquaculture industry has invested in the creation of optimal production systems to enhance global competitiveness throughout the country. Today South Korea maintains an abundance of fisheries resources along its coastline, extending about 2,413 km. With the decline of capture production over the last decade, South Korea has increased its reliance on aquaculture for finfish and other mariculture products. The majority of South Korean fish farms are located in the South Sea region.

A Brief History

Geography has made South Korea a natural location for aquaculture growth for several hundred years. Modern aquaculture farming emerged in the 1960s in South Korea and has advanced to new heights with the emergence of new technologies that improve the sustainability and growth of fish farms, particularly in the South and East Sea regions. The most common species grown in South Korean fish farms today are Black Rock Fish (Sebastes melanops), Sea Bream (Sparidentex hasta), and Mullet (Mugil cephalus). These species represent almost 90 percent of the total farmed fish in the country.

The Donghae STF (Fish Farm)

In December of 2014, Donghae STF (East Sea Salmon and Trout Farming), began growing salmon. Open ocean commercial salmon farming is technically challenging. Many products and techniques used in other countries are not compatible with South Korea’s East Sea marine environment, yet at the Donghae, salmon farming is succeeding.

Nine years ago, Mr. Dong Joo Kim launched the Donghae Farm. In 2012, Kim became interested in salmon farming. Historically, 100 percent of salmon has been imported to the South Korean market. Current demand for salmon in South Korea is about 20,000 tonnes annually. Mr. Kim’s search for the right location to raise salmon led him to the East Sea. In this region, Kim found the optimal ocean temperature—20 – 30m below the surface where colder water temperatures are more conducive for salmon growth.

Open Ocean Salmon Farming

Open ocean salmon farming is particularly challenging due to the severity and changes in climate compared to near-shore farming used predominantly in South Korea. The government of South Korea has promoted the use of offshore farming as the industry expands.

About Open Ocean Farming in South Korea

In South Korea, moving aquaculture to the open ocean provides more space to meet the increasing demands for fish. It also eliminates potential conflicts that may occur with other marine resource users in the busy fish farming waters inshore.

Copper-Alloy Mesh launched in Korea with Donghae STF

Copper-alloy mesh was introduced to the Donghae farm in 2014. The copper-alloy mesh is preferred for use by Donghae because of its resistance to fouling, its durability, and its need for reduced maintenance and cleaning. The use of copper-alloy net pens has also been proven effective in open-ocean farming. Due to its durability and ability to resist the buildup of organic matter, copper-alloy mesh has also made it possible for Donghae to raise salmon.

Dong Jee Kim, Donghae STF CEO, says, “Successful application of this innovative fish net system is a new milestone in domestic fish farming. By solving major difficulties for the fish-farming industry, we believe this is the best solution for fish-farming challenges in Korea.”

Donghae has five submersible cages (25m diameter, 12m depth) and plans to add five more pens by the end of 2015. The net pens are copper, with synthetic nets on the top and the bottom to reduce their weight. The total production of salmon will be approximately 2000 tonnes when the ten cages are completed.



Benefits of copper-alloy mesh include:

  • Its resistance to storm damage. Copper-alloy mesh is longer-lasting than traditional netting.
  • Copper-alloy mesh reduces predator attacks and fish escapes.
  • It stays naturally clean, reducing drag and maintaining cage volume.
  • Decreases impact of pathogens and parasites, as monitored by famers.
  • Supports sustainable fish farming and is 100% recyclable.
  • Minimizes maintenance costs and efforts.

Chris Lee, International Copper Association Country Manager and Project Manager Copper Aquaculture, South Korea, has been managing copper aquaculture projects in Korea since 2009. His roles include the coordination of trials and studies about copper aquaculture applications with project partners. Chris acts as a representative of the ICA for project funding and decision-making. He also provides support to the local supply chain with copper aquaculture applications for the industry.