By Yang Junfeng, Xu Yujie
China is vigorously exploring the “blue ocean” with years of efforts in building marine ranches with innovative technologies.
“Each piece of kelp in this row weighs a lot and is taller than an adult. We are busy all year round after starting kelp farming, and our income today is several times higher than before,” said Liu Zuhua from Quangang district, Quanzhou, southeast China’s Fujian province, holding the kelp he cultivated.
The sea waters in the district are a “marine farmland” for local fishermen. The kelp business there has emerged as one of the pillar industries, and fishermen’s income has increased yearly.
According to the man, more than a dozen years ago, he made a living by fishing at sea before starting kelp farming. He had to stay home and had no source of income during fishing moratoriums.
“Things are different today. I can do kelp farming during the moratoriums, which expands my income and leads me to a better life,” he told People’s Daily.
Liu has contracted 100 mu (6.67 hectares) of kelp farming areas this year, and his family’s income has jumped to over 300,000 yuan ($42,195) from less than 100,000 yuan in the past.
A sea ranch is built by placing artificial fish reefs and other measures in a specific sea area, where marine life propagate, grow, forage, or take shelter. It is a fishery model that aims at the sustainable utilization of fishery resources.
Compared with traditional marine farming, marine ranches pay more attention to applying science and technologies in production and targeted management. While contributing to the restoration of marine ecology, marine farms help promote the transformation of the fishery sector from a quantity-oriented industry to one that prioritizes quality and efficiency.
Over recent years, China has made steady progress in constructing marine ranches. It issued its first national standard on building marine farms. It incorporated optimizing the layout of offshore green aquaculture, building marine ranches, and developing sustainable distant-water fishery into its Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035.
So far, the country is home to more than 300 marine ranches and has released over 50 million cubic meters of artificial reefs. The “blue granary” strategy is taking shape in China’s vast sea areas.
Marine ranches boast high economic, ecological, and social benefits. They protect the environment and expand income and production for fishermen.
Aquaculture is getting more and more science-based and intelligent today as relevant technologies and equipment are becoming innovative, standardized, and applied on a large scale.
Genghai No.1 is a marine ranching complex in Laishan district, Yantai, east China’s Shandong province, which looks like a gemstone necklace on the blue ocean.
On one end of the “necklace,” there is a flower-shaped intelligent fish farm, and on the other stands a multi-functional space shaped like a starfish.
The complex comes with a batch of tech-ish equipment. For instance, its electricity is provided by solar and wind power generation systems, and a sewage disposal system can send disposed waste to terminals designated by environmental authorities for centralized treatment.
Besides, a seawater desalination device produces 20 cubic meters of fresh water daily, equivalent to three days of freshwater consumption in the complex.
The intelligent fish farm on the complex has three aquaculture cages, each with a diameter of 40 meters and a maximum breeding volume of about 10,000 cubic meters. It’s a great fishing ground for visitors.
“These cages can produce 200,000 high-quality marine fish such as spotted groupers and red seabreams annually, with an output of about 150,000 kilograms,” said Wang Guanlei, an executive with the Shandong Ocean Harvest Corporation, the developer of the Genghai No.1 marine ranching complex.
It is reported that the intelligent fish farm is equipped with automatic feeding, environment monitoring, and anti-collision systems. It also has uncrewed vessels, underwater inspection robots, and other advanced devices. Fish breeding on the farm is eco-friendly, automatic, and intelligent.
Wang told People’s Daily that staff members on the complex need to evacuate from the facility when the weather at sea gets rough, but they can still manage the fish farm operation on their mobile phones.
Traditional aquaculture may be bothered by the land and water resources shortage, shrinking breeding space, and water pollution. At the same time, the intelligent fishery is a transformation in which traditional production models get more targeted, efficient, and environment-friendly, a change in which robots gradually replace manual labor, and a shift in which big data outrun experiences in decision-making, said Zhao Chunjiang, academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
Zhao said the smart fishery is an important and influential approach to promoting supply-side structural reform in the fishery industry and accelerating fishery transformation.