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Ocean Study to Look at Sea Resources

China will give more support to researching and studying its marine resources, marine officials said.


Highlighting development and scientific exploration without harming the environment, China has expanded research on cultivation of marine resources, the utilization of sea water and energy, and the monitoring and surveying of ocean pollution, Chen Lianzeng, deputy director of the State Oceanic Administration, said last weekend.


"The core research work of a comprehensive offshore survey will begin later this year to make better account of China's oceanic properties," Chen said.


The survey, dubbed "The 908 Project" because it was approved by the State Council on September 8, 2003, is a mammoth effort to check the country's 676,000 square kilometers of offshore waters and nearby inland waters.


The preliminary work of the survey was finished recently, and investigations will begin soon covering the physical, chemical, meteorological, geological and biological areas.


"Through oceanic research, many of the ocean's mysteries will be discovered to promote scientific development and resources exploitation, which is of great importance to national economic and scientific development," Chen said.


With the government spending more than 2 billion yuan (US$240 million), the entire investigation is scheduled for completion by the end of 2009.


A major goal of the survey is a digital oceanic information system expected to be built by 2009 to collect accurate information and locate resources in the offshore waters.


"The 21st century is a digital era in which technology has become the leading source of productivity," said Lin Shaohua, director of the National Marine Data and Information Service Center.


Lin's center probes the coastline and islands, tracks ocean disasters and observes the social and economic development of the country's coastal regions.


"Inadequate knowledge often results in marine resources' being over-exploited or even destroyed in some areas while in other areas huge resources have been untouched," Lin said.


For example, fishery resources in Shantou of South China's Guangdong Province were over-exploited and sea water was polluted because too many fishery plants concentrated in a limited beach area in the early 1990s.


Varieties of fish there have been greatly reduced in the past two decades, and the ecosystem was ruined. High-value fish have become very rare, and the fish that remain are small.


The local government has controlled the number of fishing boats since 1997.


Artificial reefs have been introduced to provide habitat places for fish and reef inhabitants, which have helped improve the ecosystem.


Fishery areas in East China's Shandong and Zhejiang provinces have also been faced with problems of over-exploitation, Lin said.


To better protect the marine environment and supervise resources, an oceanic observation system with marine satellites as the core technology, also under "the 908 Project," has been introduced, Lin said.


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


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


(China Daily May 23, 2005)





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