Chinese scientists are exploring the feasibility of open-net salmon farming in the Yellow Sea, the first attempt in the world to breed the cold water fish in temperate sea water.
China imports millions of tonnes of salmon from Norway and Chile every year as all of China's marginal seas -- from the Bohai Sea in the north to the South China Sea -- are too hot for the fish.
Scientists with the Ocean University of China identified a cold water mass in the center of the Yellow Sea off east China's Shandong Province, which they are upbeat will be suitable.
Dong Shuanglin, a professor with the research team, said the rare cold water mass, the only one found in Chinese waters, was formed due to a luck combination of the area's climate, topography, ocean current and seawater density.
Located 20 to 30 meters below sea level, the water mass is around 4.6 to 9.3 degrees Celsius in summer.
The 500 billion cubic meter, 13 square kilometer water mass, is big enough to raise 500 million salmons, as each fish needs some 1,000 cubic meters of water.
"We plan to use net cages to keep the salmon alive in the summer, and this will allow us to lift them higher when temperatures drop," said Zhang Meizhao, a senior engineer with the research team.
If the experiment works, the potential market value of the salmon industry could yield about 100 billion yuan (15.3 billion U.S. dollars), which is the equivalent of one third of the output value of Shandong's fishery sector in 2015, said Dong.
The scientists are collaborating with a fishery firm and two oceanic institutes. They have purchased 120,000 salmon eggs from America.
Dong said the salmon fry and parr will be put into the sea in October when they are expected to grow up to 500 grams.
"The fish will weigh around four kilograms by 2018, which is when we will haul them in and sell them. We will farm more salmon eggs in the coming two years," Dong said.
Wanzefeng Fishery Co., the team's partner, has started construction on a two-hectare center to fertilize and nurture salmon eggs and there are plans for cold storage and processing facilities in the pipeline. It is also renovating a 3,300-tonne ship to assist with offshore farming.
The cold water mass is 50 to 60 nautical miles offshore.
Offshore waters are considered to be pollution-free. Chinese consumers have voiced growing concerns over the safety of domestic aquatic products. Near-shore mariculture has been accused of using too much vaccines and fodder to boost harvest.