China has launched the world’s first giant floating fish farm that can produce 3,700 tonnes of fish every year – an output similar to Chagan, one of the country’s largest freshwater lakes, state news agency Xinhua reported.
Guoxin 1, equipped with 15 tanks, each larger than two standard swimming pools, set sail from the eastern port city of Qingdao on Friday.
The mobile farm, the largest of its kind in the world, will travel to the Yellow Sea, East China Sea and South China Sea where different fish can be cultivated in their ideal temperatures. The first batch of yellow croakers bred in the East China Sea is expected to be on the market by the autumn.
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The mega vessel is 250 metres (820ft) long and 45 metres wide, with a displacement of 130,000 tonnes, according to state broadcaster CGTN, which added that it is large enough to survive typhoons.
In comparison, China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier Shandong is 315 metres long and 75 metres wide and has a displacement of 70,000 tonnes.
Chen Zhixin, the chief scientist of the Fishery Machinery and Instrument Research Institute at the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences, told Xinhua that the new vessel would allow aquaculture to be carried out in the deep seas.
In a 2021 study co-authored by Chen published in the Chinese-language journal Fishery Modernisation, researchers listed where different types of fish should be farmed.
Cobia and groupers are more suited to the South China Sea where the temperature stays between 25 and 28 degrees Celsius (77-82 Fahrenheit), while turbot and Atlantic salmon should be grown in the colder waters of the Yellow Sea where temperatures can drop to 2 degrees Celsius, according to the study.
The ship is equipped with technology that allows a constant supply of seawater to be pumped into the cabins and keeps the environment stable, Dong Shaoguang, the deputy general manager of the ship’s state-owned funder Qingdao Conson Development Group, told CGTN.
Dong said the ship had a shorter aquaculture cycle than traditional cages and could breed between three to five times more fish in the same space.
Two more ships of the same model are being built and expected to be delivered by March 2024, while work on a fourth ship with more advanced technology is set to start next year, according to CGTN.
Separately, a study has found that China – along with Japan and South Korea – “benefits disproportionately” by harvesting fish from foreign waters.
The six-year global study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America on Wednesday found: “63 per cent of countries receive net gains in nutrients through international trade, with Nigeria, France, Japan, and Italy experiencing the greatest benefits.
“These benefits are largely supported by a few prominent exporters, including China and Russia, who export a greater quantity of nutrients from fish, as well as tonnage and value, than they import.”
Lead author Kirsty Nash, an affiliate researcher at the Centre for Marine Socioecology of the University of Tasmania, said: “Some of the fish exported from China is caught by the Chinese fleet within China, while part of it is caught externally. And some of it is fish that has been imported from another country for processing and then re-exported.
“China is very important as a processing location. For example, the US might export fish to China for processing and then reimport that processed product back into the US for consumption.
“Overall China is in the positive because the benefit from the foreign fishing outweighs the losses through trade.”
More from South China Morning Post:
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- Chinese research wharf being built near largest fishing port on South China Sea