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Largest-ever Oceanic Survey in High Gear

A comprehensive survey on China's vast areas of inland waters, and marine belts has gone in high gear in an attempt to sort and count the country's marine resources, said the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) in Beijing on Saturday.

The survey, or "908 Project," is a mammoth effort to check some 676,000 square kilometers of water, collect accurate information and appropriately position resources contained in these waters in the national development plan, says a written SOA news release on Saturday.

The project, approved by the State Council in September 2003 and scheduled to be carried out from 2004 to the end of 2009, includes investigations in the physical, chemical, meteorologic, geologic, biologic and optical complexions of the targeted waters.

It will also probe the coastline and islands, track ocean disasters and observe the social and economic development of the country's coastal regions.

"We are trying to count China's oceanic properties," said SOA Vice Director Chen Lianzeng on Saturday while defining the aims of the project, the largest of its kind since 1949.

In addition, scientists will also evaluate and use their findings to help formulate the national oceanic development strategies and make decisions concerning social and economic development of the country's coastal regions.

The project is considered as a rudimentary endeavor in an even-larger framework of the so-called "Digital Oceans" scheme, featuring a comprehensive computerized three-dimensional simulation of the oceans.

According to Qu Qiang, vice director of SOA technological department, preliminary work on the "908 Project" was finished last year and core research and studies will continue through the next two years.

It is estimated that the central government will invest nearly two billion yuan (US$242 million) in the program in addition to an unspecified amount from local governments.

"The specific amount of money spent will be subject to change in accordance with the annual central and local budgets," said SOA spokesman Li Chunxian here.

 China has conducted two large-scale oceanic surveys in the 1950s and 1980s, but results of the two surveys, done with limited financial and technical supports, have failed to serve the country's fast-developing oceanic and marine economies.

To date, only 20,000 of China's total 380,000 square kilometers of usable waters have been tapped due to the lack of correct information on these waters.

As the world's largest seafood and sea-salt producer and the third largest marine transporter, China witnessed a dramatic growth in its annual oceanic industry output, which increased from22.7 billion yuan (US$2.74 billion) early 1980s to last year's 1.3 trillion yuan (US$155 billion).

Some 20 million Chinese people work in sea-related industries.

The "908 Project" will mobilize nationwide research resources and resort to the most advanced technologies and equipment.

"As a fast-developing oceanic power, China is capable of implementing the project successfully all by ourselves," said Chen Lianzeng.
(Xinhua News Agency May 15, 2005)

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