Yellow Sea salmon are nearing shop shelves
Salmon collected from China's first deep-sea fish farm are of export quality fit for the European Union market. [Photo by Yu Fangping/For China Daily]
The first batch of salmon cultivated in the open, warm waters of the Yellow Sea was collected and processed on June 21, signifying that Chinese consumers can relish domestic salmon products soon.
Market insiders said the milestone represents China's strong capability to cultivate high-value fish on a large scale.
The country's deep-sea aquaculture will evolve toward an intelligent, environmentally friendly business, they said.
Around 3,000 salmon were collected from Shenlan 1, China's first deep-sea fish farm off Qingdao, Shandong province.
"The survival rate reached 80 percent. Each fish weighs more than 4 kilograms, and is of export quality fit for the European Union market," said Gu Qihuan, general manager of Wanzefeng Fishery Co, a company based in Rizhao, a city neighboring Qingdao.
The company is in charge of salmon cultivation and manufacture at the Shenlan 1.
The fish-collection process is an advanced technology. "Different from traditional methods, our company employs vacuum fish pump to catch salmon to avoid injuries to fish body that can be caused by collision and friction in the net. This makes processing easier later," said Gu.
The whole collection process from fish pump to workshop requires only 45 minutes, Gu said.
According to Gu's calculation, it may take about 12 hours to deliver the salmon from the fish farm to dining tables in Qingdao.
"With the help of high integration density of processing procedures and cold chain, about 36 hours are needed at most to transport the domestic salmon all across the country," Gu said, adding that domestic foodies can savor fresh salmon and there is no need to wait four or five days for imported products.
Dong Shuanglin is a professor of Qingdao-based Ocean University of China and a member of the expert team involved in salmon cultivation. He attributed the successful cultivation to a mass of cold water in the middle and deeper levels of the Yellow Sea, which covers an area almost the size of Shandong province.
Dong said its indicators concerning temperature, quality, and dissolved oxygen provide favorable conditions for salmon breeding.
"Salmon cultivation in cold sea waters in countries such as Norway, Chile and China has created a precedent to breed salmon in warm waters, the lowest latitude of salmon farm in the world," Dong said.
The Shenlan 1 also serves as an "intelligent cradle" for breeding salmon, he said.
An investment of 115 million yuan ($17.7 million) was made for the cylindrical apparatus－equal to 40 standard swimming pools and weighing 1,500 metric tons. It is the world's largest intelligent submersible aquaculture facility.
Its design features multiple core technologies, including overall design, rising and descending controls, protection from shark attacks and legally recognized intellectual property, a major breakthrough in the research and development of deep-sea fish farms in China, according to Wanzefeng Fishery Co.
The company said the salmon cultivated in the Shenlan 1 area tend to grow faster with better quality and are disease-free, a contrast to those in major production areas in the rest of world. In addition, labor and logistics costs are lower.
With suitable temperatures, the Shenlan 1 is expected to harvest 300,000 mature salmon with its annual production exceeding 1,500 tons and yearly value surpassing 100 million yuan, the company said.
Dong said the success of salmon cultivation in China suggests that the country's deep-sea aquaculture will likely grow a complete industrial chain as an increasing number of consumers have a fast-growing appetite for premium products.
The exploration of salmon cultivation is part of efforts made by the Qingdao West Coast New Area to build a pilot zone for a "marine granary".
The new area will make efforts to upgrade marine aquacultural sectors and pursue an environmentally friendly way, said Zhao Yingmin, a senior official from the New Area, hoping that the experience in the pilot zone will be promoted across the country in the future.