Is­land par­adise be­com­ing a get­away re­sort

China Daily (USA) - - TOP NEWS - By LIANG SHUANG in Shengsi, Zhe­jiang liang­shuang@chi­

An iso­lated is­land, a lim­ited num­ber of tourists and el­e­gantly dec­o­rated guest­houses sounds like a par­adise for a week­end get­away from metropoli­tan mad­ness, which is ex­actly what Hua­niao Is­land, in Shengsi, Zhe­jiang prov­ince, of­fers, thanks to res­i­dents’ ef­forts to re­store the ecosys­tem.

Lo­cated at the mouth of the Yangtze River, a few hours away from the me­trop­o­lises of Shang­hai and Hangzhou, Hua­niao and other is­lands in Shengsi have been a fish­er­men’s par­adise for cen­turies. It’s the core area of the Zhoushan fish­ing ground, long considered the largest of its kind in­China and one of the big­gest world­wide.

Ac­cord­ing to lo­cal year­books, the an­nual har­vest ac­counted for 20 per­cent of China’s to­tal fish­ery yield at its peak.

But due to over­fish­ing, as well as pol­lu­tion from the Yangtze River and the coastal shore, yields have plunged since the 1980s.

Al­most all pine trees on the is­land were wiped out by par­a­sites present in fur­ni­ture from the main­land, with the for­est cov­er­age rate plung­ing by more than 20 per­cent at the start of the 21st cen­tury. The govern­ment has since in­vested 10 mil­lion yuan ($1.5 mil­lion) an­nu­ally to ad­dress the is­sue.

“The ecosys­tem is al­ways so frag­ile on is­lands like ours,” said Tang Jinji, deputy head of Shengsi county.

Lo­cals be­gan to re­al­ize the need to take bet­ter care of their en­vi­ron­ment.

For bet­ter reg­u­la­tion, small wooden fish­ing boats have been­re­placed­by­big steel ships. Small fish have been re­leased into the ocean and har­vest­ing has been banned dur­ing spawn­ing sea­son. Thou­sands of hectares of mus­sel farms have be­come a ma­jor source of in­come, while mus­sels also help to clean the wa­ter.

Con­ser­va­tion zones and reef restora­tion pro­grams have been adopted, and au­thor­i­ties have started mon­i­tor­ing poach­ers, who face strict fines if caught.

In ad­di­tion to the trans­for­ma­tion of the fish­ing in­dus­try, tourism has played a key role. Once a boat cap­tain, Hong Yongjun is now the owner of an ocean-themed guest­house. Vis­i­tors can en­joy the ocean viewand mu­rals made by fish­er­men’s wives, as well as go on fish­ing trips.

“We’ve been de­vel­op­ing this in­dus­try since 2006,” said Zhang Zhiyan, head of Tian’ao vil­lage.

The “Five Fish­ing Vil­lages of the East Sea”, which in­cludes Tian’ao and four neigh­bor­ing vil­lages, pro­vide fish­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, each with a unique style.

About 30 kilo­me­ters to the north­east liesHua­niao Is­land, where the Hua­niao Light­house has been guid­ing ships since 1870. The is­land now of­fers tours for a lim­ited num­ber of guests cen­tered at the light­house. The tour lim­its vis­i­tors to one boat— hold­ing 280 peo­ple at most — and in­cludes a two-night stay in guest­houses on the is­land.

“We’re very cau­tious when it comes to the en­vi­ron­men­tal ca­pac­ity of the is­land, plus we don’t plan to build any big, fancy ho­tels,” Wang said. “So it’s ac­tu­ally dif­fi­cult to make a book­ing dur­ing the summer.”

“This fits our idea of high­end tourism, as we are build­ing China’s first high-end mi­cro-re­sort on an out­ly­ing is­land,” said Cao Ji­ayan, head of theHua­niaoTouris­mDevel­op­ment Com­pany.

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