Bye-bye feedlots, hello aquaculture
The next food revolution: fish farming?
Aquaculture is the fastest-growing food sector in the world. Some see it as the best hope to feed an increasingly over-populated planet.By Michael Holtz, Staff writer, Christian Science Monitor, OCTOBER 25, 2015
SANGGOU BAY, CHINA; AND TRURO, MASS. — Sanggou Bay looks like a place where the pointillism movement has been unleashed on an ocean canvas. All across the harbor on China’s northeastern coast, thousands of tiny buoys – appearing as black dots – stretch across the briny landscape in unending rows and swirling patterns. They are broken only by small boats hauling an armada of rafts through the murky waters.
For centuries, Chinese fishermen have harvested this section of the Yellow Sea for its flounder, herring, and other species. Today the area is again producing a seafood bounty, though not from the end of a fisherman’s rod or the bottom of a trawler’s net. Instead, the maze of buoys marks thousands of underwater pens or polyurethane ropes that hold oysters, scallops, abalone, Japanese flounder, mussels, sea cucumbers, kelp, and garish orange sea squirts. They are all part of one of the world’s biggest and most productive aquaculture fields. Sanggou Bay is a seafood buffet on a colossal scale.
The buoys here extend for miles out to the horizon, offering, on an aluminum-gray day, the only clue to where the ocean stops and the sky begins. Hundreds of migrant workers – many from as far away as Myanmar (Burma) – pilot the fishing boats zigzagging around the floats, shuttling fish to shore, checking the lines for mussels and oysters, and voyaging farther out to sea to harvest seaweed.
“The bay is packed,” says Bian Dapeng, director of research and development for Xunshan Group, a state-owned Chinese conglomerate that controls much of the bay, as he looks out at the harbor from a rocky overlook. “Someday we’ll go even farther out.”
The transformation of Sanggou Bay from a struggling fishing port to an aquaculture leviathan symbolizes what may become one of the big food stories of the 21st century.