China science

Chinese fish farm tests deep-sea waters with ‘world’s biggest’ salmon cage

Operator takes the plunge far offshore in the Yellow Sea to try to meet the country’s ever-growing appetite for seafood

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 May, 2018, 4:56pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 May, 2018, 7:47pm

A Chinese fisheries company will soon launch a massive deep-sea salmon farming facility in the eastern province of Shandong to help meet the country’s growing appetite for seafood.

Shandong Wanzefeng Fishery, the operator, said a fully submersible net cage called Deep Blue No 1, the world’s biggest, was delivered to the shipyard of state-owned Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry on Friday, state-run Xinhua reported.

The 35-metre-high cage will be deployed in the Yellow Sea about 130 nautical miles east of Rizhao where the cold water is believed to be a suitable habitat for the fish.

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Wang Yu, head of the Hubei Marine Engineering Equipment Research Institute, which designed the system, said the cage had a volume of 50,000 cubic metres and could generate a harvest of about 1,500 tonnes of salmon per season.

“Its position underwater can be adjusted from four to 50 metres to ensure the best temperature for the salmon,” Wang said at the farm’s launch in Qingdao on Friday.

It is the first attempt to set up such an open sea farm in China and more could follow, with Xinhua estimating the Yellow Sea could support an industry of more than 100 billion yuan (US$15.7 billion).

Salmon is growing in popularity in China, with the country consuming about 70,000 tonnes of the fish each year. China imported 40,000 tonnes last year, most of it from Norway and Chile, according to data from analytics firm Dun & Bradstreet.

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Norway exported 170 tonnes of fresh salmon to China last week, down from 238 tonnes the previous week but up from 11 tonnes during the same time a year earlier, the Norwegian Seafood Council said on Thursday.

Although volumes have dropped sharply in recent weeks, Norwegian producers see Chinese demand as a key way to balance growing global salmon supply.

China has tried to raise its production of farmed salmon but there are limits on the areas that can be used for aquaculture.

Deputy agriculture minister Yu Kangzhen said farming in the deep sea and outer ocean was the natural choice to ease pressure on fisheries closer to shore.

Yu said the new cage marked the start of that shift.