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An ocean of opportunity

China Daily | Updated: 2022-12-09

Home to numerous floating islands, Xiapu county in Ningde, East China's Fujian province, has benefited from its natural resources and marine tourism over the years.

Boasting a marine area of 28,900 square kilometers, the largest among all coastal counties in Fujian, Xiapu enjoys rich resources.

A production center for edible seaweed and oysters, Xiapu has 28,000 hectares of seawater aquaculture area. Half of the county's population, about 260,000 people, are engaged in fishing industry. .

Fisherman Lin Ruibo's income has increased a lot from growing edible seaweed. Entering the seaweed harvest season, Lin is busy at his sea farm.

"The price of seaweed is 8 yuan ($1.13) per kilogram, which means I can make more than 40,000 yuan from a single boat's harvest," Lin says.

Xiapu has a complete industrial chain from growing seedlings to transplanting and processing. The annual production value of the industry is expected to reach 1 billion yuan this year.

The popularity of short-video platforms has helped raise the profile of seafood from the county nationally. Increasingly, farmers are sharing their lives online and use the internet as a new sales channel.

Quitting a city job three years ago, Zhang Xujian from Xiapu's Shajiang village and his father have livestreamed their beachcombing life.

Their Douyin account has attracted about 2.3 million followers. Using his influence on social media, Zhang has helped locals engaged in the fishing activities to sell aquaculture products through livestreaming.

Last year, the total production of Xiapu's aquaculture products stood at 479,000 metric tons, and the output value reached 12.76 billion yuan, with a 3.2 percent increase from the previous year, according to official data.

Besides the fishery sector, the county has developed fishery-themed homestay tourism in recent years and has opened more than 400 homestays, providing job opportunities to locals.

Beigang in Xiapu is an example of how tourism has transformed a rustic fishing village into a trendy seaside resort. Built during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), many of the stone houses in the village have been renovated into homestays, drawing in a raft of visitors each year. In 2017, Beigang was listed among the "most beautiful villages for leisure" by the Fujian provincial government.

"The sea doesn't change, but our way of using it has,"Chen Songbai, head of the village says.

Born in 1956, Chen remembers when he was a boy how poor life had been for villagers who fished the waters for generations. The development of tourism in recent years has made a lot of difference in Beigang.

Last year, the village received about 420,000 tourists, who spent more than 33 million yuan.

With over 400 kilometers of coastline, the county of Xiapu is a popular destination for photographers.

As a result, demand for people who can demonstrate traditional fishing methods has increased, leading to a profession called "model fishers".

Becoming a model fisher in 2006, Yang Xuexiang in Xiapu's Dongbi village has seen her life improving.

"There are more visitors to my village. I built a new house and opened a homestay and a restaurant," Yang says.

Since 2018, the county has vigorously developed tourism and promoted bed-and-breakfast lodge clusters in coastal scenic areas.

"We'll keep developing offshore aquaculture and tourism to make the marine economy a forceful driver for high-quality economic development and common prosperity in Xiapu county," says the county's Party secretary Guo Wensheng.

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