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Sturgeon Farms Moved As Threat To Safety


CHINA - Sturgeon farmers in the Three Gorges area of China's Yangtze River are dismantling their fish tanks in order to keep navigation channels safe and clear.

According to People's Daily Online, more than 180 households in Zigui County, in the upper reaches of the Three Gorges Dam, have dismantled 75 per cent of the 7,509 tanks, the basic facility to raise fish in the offshore water areas in the river, over which the dam was built.

They are selling or relocating fish stocks, including profitable sturgeons, according to the agricultural bureau of Zigui.

The central government issued an order in December 2008 to ban aquafarms around the dam area after finding the business posed a threat to navigation safety and contaminated part of the river. Now the county government is designing an aquaculture park on land to accommodate sturgeon entering spawning age.

Prices for a certain type of caviar made of sturgeon spawn hit up to 14,000 yuan (2,050 US dollars) per kilogram on the domestic market, about 200 times the price of sturgeon meat, said Liu Wenlong, one of the largest fish raisers in the county.

The first stage of the park, to be set up in Maoping Town adjacent to the dam project, will mainly involve pools, covering two hectares, for about 400 tonnes of sturgeon owned by Mr Wenlong, said Tan Fuqi, vice director of the bureau.

Mr Wenlong himself would offer most of the estimated three-million-yuan investment with bank loans assisted by the government and the construction was expected to start in six months, said Mr Fuqi.

The second stage of the park would see the development of caviar production aimed at foreign markets.

The park is expected to offer job opportunities to fish raisers who had to quit the business in line with government orders to ensure smooth navigation and reduce water eutrophication.

Further expansion of the project is yet to be decided.

Zigui government called upon fish raisers to cooperate with the demolition campaign in May, promising 3,000 yuan in compensation for each tank dismantled before the deadline of October.

However, fish farmers could not deal with large amounts of fish stocks within the time limit and the government had to extend the deadline.

Wang Heping said he had sold his fish and would get 90,000 yuan in compensation.

"I only know about fish and it's difficult for me to start a new business," said Mr Heping, who began to raise fish in the area six years ago.