The pelagic fishery in Zhoushan, Zhejiang province, saw remarkable growth in the first two months of the year, despite the outbreak of COVID-19.
Statistics show that the fishery yielded 77,000 metric tons of output in the first two months, up 5.4 percent year-on-year. The output of inkfish, squid, and octopus increased by 15.1 percent, with 75,000 tons of squid being processed, up 107 percent year-on-year. In addition, tuna output increased by 43 percent to nearly 7,000 tons.
According to Zhang Hongbin, director of the pelagic fishery department of the Zhoushan Ocean and Fishery Bureau, this growth can be mainly attributed to a shift in fishing areas from the southwest Atlantic to the southeast Pacific.
"We had more than 100 squid fishing vessels working in the southwest Atlantic in the first two months of last year, and the area suffered a sharp reduction in squid populations," said Zhang, so this year we shifted most vessels to the southeast Pacific and saw significant growth in output.
"Another reason for the high output is that many newly-built vessels have been put into use. Zhoushan built 34 ocean-going fishing vessels last year and introduced several large pelagic fishery companies such as Ocean Family," Zhang added. "We had 567 fishing vessels operating on the open sea in the first two months of this year."
As the epidemic spreads around the world, however, problems are beginning to arise. According to Zhang, the biggest problem facing the industry is a shortage of sailors, especially foreign sailors.
There are 36 pelagic fishery companies (excluding two State-owned ones) in Zhoushan, with nearly 600 ocean-going vessels and nearly 15,000 sailors, one third of whom are from foreign countries.
A worker at Ocean Family said the company had planned to send two ocean-going vessels out in March but postponed the plan due to a shortage in labor.
"Many staging points for ocean-going vessels have started to close in recent days, which will definitely affect the transporting of fish, availability of supplies, and access to ship maintenance," said the worker.
In addition, the city's cold storage capacity for seafood is reaching its limit, according to a recent survey by the Zhoushan Ocean and Fishery Bureau, which will pose another threat to the city's pelagic fishery industry if the epidemic doesn't subside soon.
To deal with these challenges, Zhoushan's fishery department has been taking measures to help companies resume operations, including granting 485 million yuan ($68.35 million) in subsidies to fishery companies that were not supposed to be given out until after June.
All of the city's pelagic fishery companies are currently operating normally, and the city's pelagic fishery association is encouraging cooperation between companies in order to sell more squid and weather the current crisis.