Updated: Jun 5, 2019
(Mandarin version at bottom)
Shitiwan’s (石梯灣) Sustainable Aquaculture Farm
Beside the Provincial Highway 11 which links Hualien and Taitung, is a place of majestic natural beauty where water and rock converge. Here, a platform beside the seawater beckons one to take a repose, while the Pacific’s unrelenting tides crash upon the shore, accompanied by faint odors of salty seaweed. Here, the fragrance of flowers and musty smells of ancient trees combine serendipitously with the ocean’s elements, allowing one to truly bask in nature’s gentle roughness. Given such a description, it may be hard to accept that a place like this, so full of comfort and longing, is not a coastal park, nor a country park, but rather, the perfect location to raise sweet shrimp (女兒蝦).
The People Behind It All
Unlike the small and shallow aquaculture ponds that are common in southern Taiwan, the aquaculture ponds here are large, about half as wide as a football field. The one behind all of this is Professor Lee, “ah gong”, who is a robust man of 80 –the type who laughs boisterously without refrain. According to a traditional Taiwanese idiom, “The type of ‘pet’ you raise reflects the type of person you are.” For Professor Lee, the succulent sweetness of his shrimp illustrates his decades of experience in the aquaculture industry. Some reviewers have even gone so far as to say that, “If Professor Lee declared himself as the fifth best aqua-culturist in Taiwan, no one would dare to place themselves in the top four.” Again, this is a proof of the quality of Lee’s sweet shrimp.
On the aquaculture farm, aside from Professor Lee, another person also works here: Professor Lee’s daughter, Lee Yi-chuan “Teacher Lee” – who owns a PhD in aquaculture. Despite her impressive academic credentials, Professor Lee likes to joke cheekily, “If only she’d have 20% of all my knowledge, I would be very pleased already!” Despite this harmless teasing, deep down, one can tell that Professor Lee is very proud of his daughter. After graduating with a degree in animal industry from one of Taiwan’s top universities, she changed her career concentration and decided to pursue further studies in aquaculture. Her motivation? To be the successor of her father’s craft that would otherwise vanish forever. We have her to thank for allowing us to continue enjoying such great shrimp.
Maintaining a Delicate Balance between Conservation and Aquaculture
As one of the most water-intensive industries in Taiwan, aquaculture is a controversial issue. Therefore, both Professor Lee and Teacher Lee are always evaluating how to better balance their high standards for shrimp breeding and their concerns for the environment. They insist on not adding any drugs or extra additives commonly used in coastal aquaculture, such as fertilizers, disinfectants, antibacterial agents, pesticides, herbicides/algaecides, feed additives, anesthetics or hormones. As a result, they are able to keep the seawater uncontaminated and free of any offensive odors, lessening the impact on the ocean’s circulation system. Their foresight has set a good example for coming generations, and through doing so, they hope to influence other aquaculturists in adopting more sustainable aquaculture methods.
Their Guiding Maxim
Many people ask the Lees about what distinguishes their shrimp from that of others, and in particular, what exactly makes their shrimp so fresh and sweet. This can all be attributed to the Lees’ profound dedication to their profession and their strict adherence to a guiding maxim: the Golden Rule – to treat the shrimp in the way they would want to be treated. Consequently, throughout the entire planning process, the Lees always think from a shrimp’s perspective when considering what fodder to purchase, where to best breed the shrimp, and so on. By assuming the perspective of a shrimp and not that of a fishery manager bent on maximizing profits, the Lees are able to better guarantee the quality of their shrimp.
A Testimony of Lee’s Sweet Shrimp
In her early days at the aquaculture farm, Teacher Lee was confounded by a startling phenomenon: customers would gobble the entire shrimp down, including the shell! This only goes on to illustrate the freshness and tastiness of the Lees’ shrimp. When making decisions throughout the breeding process, the Lees always keep the customers’ health in mind – whether it’s choosing the source of baby shrimp, raising the shrimp, or the final product packaging. However, due to such a careful consideration, their expenditure is very high, and the Lees often earn less than what they should. In a market dominated by large wholesalers that sell at unreasonably low prices, many small aquaculture farms suffer significantly. Furthermore, since such farms often lack a holistic understanding of market prices, they often under-price their products. Not only is this a vicious cycle for small-scale aquaculturists, but for consumers as well, who are at a loss when searching for quality ingredients due to the opaqueness of market information.
博學阿公 – 人稱‘’李教授’’的紮實養殖功夫
生力軍 - 水產博士女兒的加持
'我那女兒李意娟，若有學到我百分之2的技術就算很不錯了啦！'阿公雖然這樣笑虧著自家女兒，臉上卻有著為人父親 - 引女兒之孝心為傲的滿足神情。李老師（即阿公的女兒，大家都稱其為李老師）從台大畜產所畢業後，毅然決然地選擇水產養殖所繼續深造，為的就是想讓阿公養殖技藝能後繼有人，否則阿公豐富珍貴的知識與技藝若沒人傳承，我們的後代子孫又怎麼能有機會享受到如此鮮甜美味的白蝦呢？