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High-tech marine sector steams ahead

2013-06-08 09:46 China Daily     Web Editor: Wang Fan comment

China is eyeing emerging sectors to guarantee the sustainable and environment-friendly development of the country's marine economy, with the first batch of high-tech bases expected to be established within this year, a senior expert said.

Liu Rongzi, a marine economy expert from the China Institute for Marine Affairs, the policy-consulting unit of the State Oceanic Administration, said the location of the bases will be selected among Shandong, Guangdong, Fujian, Zhejiang and Tianjin.

High-tech marine sector steams ahead

As pilot zones, they will get central government financial support in fostering these sectors, according to Liu.

"In the blueprint of the country's marine economy development, the country is encouraging the development and research of the emerging high-tech marine sectors," she said.

China's Ocean Economic Development Report released by the institute last month said the emerging marine industry is expected to be the fastest developed sector in China's marine economy in the coming 10 years.

The emerging sectors in marine economy include marine bio-pharmaceutics, seawater utilization and renewable energies, and offshore equipment manufacturing.

As a newcomer to this field, China is accelerating its pace in exploring the ocean for the country's future resources and energy supply.

According to a plan released by the National Development and Reform Commission last year, the country aims to produce 2.2 million cubic meters of desalinated seawater per day by 2015, about three times the current capacity.

The 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), released on the central government's website in January, said by 2015, the country will optimize the industrial layout, enhance meteorological support and back offshore wind power projects, including the installation capacity of offshore wind power turbines.

For Liu, the authorities' support in developing these industries is not only for resources and energy, but also for marine environment protection.

"These sectors are more environment-friendly and sustainable than the traditional marine industry such as the fishing industry and offshore oil and gas exploration," she said.

The environmental impact from the Bohai Bay oilfield spill in June 2011 is still felt, with increased oil level in the waters near the accident site since the spill, the administration said. Some marine experts said that it could take up to 30 years for the bay to recover.

Liu said developing emerging industries may be a good way to balance China's fast economic development and protect the fragile marine environment.

But apparently it is far from enough to slow down the pollution of the country's sea waters.

The country's 2012 marine environment report released by the administration in March showed the area of severely polluted Chinese coastal waters surged to 68,000 square kilometers in 2012 from 44,000 sq km in the previous year.

More than 17 million metric tons of pollutants from the 72 monitored rivers flowed into the sea in 2012, including 46,000 tons of heavy metals and 93,000 tons of oil, the report said.

Guan Daoming, director of the National Marine Environmental Monitoring Center, blamed the worsening conditions on increasing human activities as the marine economy becomes a new growth area for China.

Liu also expressed her concern over the marine environment, suggesting bringing in an eco-compensation mechanism, in which officials receive a payback, to motivate the local governments to protect the ocean.

"The ocean itself is the treasure," she added.

In 2012, the country's gross domestic product related to the marine sector increased 7.9 percent year-on-year to more than 5 trillion yuan ($815 billion), according to figures released by the administration.

China's marine economy will maintain rapid development in the coming 10 to 15 years, posing a great challenge to the fragile marine environment, a report released by the institute said.

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