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Thursday, February 12, 2015

12/02/2015: ‘Patriotic Fish’ sell out in Southern China

As families around China prepare for Lunar New Year celebrations next week, shoppers in one southeastern city can add another delicacy to their shopping list: ‘patriotic fish,’ the New York Times reports.

Photos of shoppers in Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Province, thronging around cases of frozen fish and sea urchins circulated in China on Wednesday. This was no ordinary seafood, however. It was from Mischief Reef, which has been controlled by China since 1994 but is part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea also claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
 
http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/02/11/patriotic-fish-sell-out-in-southern-china/?_r=0
Protest in the Philippines against China's actions in the Spratlys

“You can steam it, make soup, braise, slice or fry it — it’s all possible!” Lin Zailiang, 82, a former government official who heads the fish-farming program, told the gathered shoppers. 


Behind him, a blue billboard advertised the products as “South China Sea ‘Patriotic Fish’ — the Third Season.”

The entire 8300 pounds of seafood sold out in two hours, according to the state-run China News Service.

But Mr Lin, white-haired and wearing a garland of orchids around his neck, also made it clear that the program was about more than just providing delicacies for the table.

Cultivating fish at Mischief Reef, called Meiji Reef by the Chinese, is equivalent to “safeguarding national sovereignty,” Mr. Lin was quoted as saying.

“Because once there are residents there — us — it becomes our territory, according to international ocean law.”

“It is very important, whether from a political, military or economic standpoint,” Mr Lin said. “So we must persist.”

According to China News Service, Mr Lin once served as deputy director of Hainan Province’s fisheries bureau and now receives a special subsidy from the State Council, China’s cabinet. Mr Lin began cultivating fish at Mischief Reef in 2007. Teams of 11 or 12 fishermen from Mr Lin’s home county, Pingtan, manage the project, spending three months at a time at the reef on a boat equipped with a video player but no television.

The report provided no further details about the relationship between Mr. Lin and the Chinese government, nor did it give information about sources of funding for the fish-farming program.

However, the transportation costs alone would suggest that this is no mere commercial undertaking. A relative of Mr Lin’s told China News Service that it takes three days to ship the fish from Mischief Reef to the southern city of Sanya, where it is frozen and processed, before being sent 1240 miles to Fuzhou. Mr Lin has sold fish cultivated at the reef for the past three years, the report said.

Mischief Reef has also been identified as the testing site for what would be China’s first mobile fish production base.

Last August, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Agriculture, told China Science Daily that the country was in the process of putting together the project.

The idea was to convert an old oil tanker into an industrial complex to farm, process and store fish. The researcher, Lei Jilin, said the development of long-distance fishing should be just as important a priority as developing maritime energy and mineral resources.

The China News Service article noted that Mischief Reef has an “extremely important strategic position.”

This is perhaps evident to no one more than the Philippines, which lies about 150 miles east of the reef, which the Philippines calls Panganiban. China surprised the Philippines by taking control of the reef in late 1994.

Concerns that China is taking steps to strengthen its foothold in the Spratly Islands increased last year as satellite images revealed that China was artificially enlarging several reefs to build what some said appeared to be military facilities.

Despite concerns voiced by the Philippines, the United States and Vietnam, China has reportedly continued its island-building activities.

On Tuesday, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs announced that it had summoned Chinese diplomats last week to convey its “strong protest” at what it said were increased reclamation activities by China at Mischief Reef.

The Philippines has the “exclusive right to authorize construction of artificial islands, installations or other structures in the vicinity of Panganiban Reef,” said a ministry spokesman, Charles Jose, according to the Philippine news outlet GMA Network.

The Philippines has asked the United Nations International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to rule on the legality of China’s claim to nearly all of the South China Sea. China has rejected the process.


Read the article HERE.

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