Tourism a surprising lure for new Chinese offshore aquaculture developments

Offshore aquaculture installations have become increasingly popular in China as coastal regions shift fish farms out of environmentally challenged on-land sites. But the offshore platforms are also proving popular in one city for another economic driver – tourism.

Tourists visiting aquaculture farms off the coast of Rongcheng in Shandong Province pay to take boat being out to distinctive yellow platforms where fish are being raised in deep-water facilities. The visitors can feed the fish, and for a premium, can go fishing themselves. 

The local Ocean and Fisheries Bureau in Rongcheng claims the “leisure fishing” side of the industry was worth CNY 2.5 billion (USD 372.3 million, EUR 329.8 million) to the city in 2018, with the figure incorporating cash spent and incomes generated locally. 

Due to this success, the Rongcheng city government is working with local aquaculture firms and fishing cooperatives to build nine “leisure fishing” platforms this year alongside seven “national-level demonstration” deep-water offshore aquaculture facilities and seven more “provincial-level” platforms farming various species.

One of the firms involved, the Xunshan Group, specializes in pufferfish production for the lucrative Japanese dining market both at home and in Japan. 

Traditional aquaculture and fishing in Rongcheng and other coastal regions have been squeezed by ramped-up enforcement of environmental regulations and fishing moratoriums, forcing the government to create new jobs in areas such as tourism. Local authorities across China have been rushing to create and market tourist attractions as the tourism and leisure sector becomes a greater driver of China’s economy. China recorded a USD 240 billion deficit (EUR 212.6 billion) in tourism spending in 2018, as the numbers of Chinese traveling overseas continues to grow. The huge overseas spend by its citizens is one of reasons why China’s current account surplus shrunk to 0.4 percent of GDP in 2018.


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