China is stepping up its activities in the Antarctic so that it can benefit more from the region’s natural resources, a senior executive has revealed.
The nation’s largest State-owned agricultural development enterprise plans to expand its fishing operations, and will focus on the small crustaceans known as krill.
“We will increase our investment in the Antarctic area in terms of krill fishing,” said Liu Shenli, chairman of the China National Agricultural Development Group and a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
“Krill provides very good quality protein that can be processed into food and medicine. The Antarctic is a treasure house for all human beings, and China should go there and share.”
The Antarctic could provide almost 100 million metric tons of krill products annually, equal to the world’s current fishing output, and China should aim to harvest one to two million tons, Liu said.
He said his company has invested heavily in fishing and processing operations in the Antarctic.
He declined to give an overall figure, but said the group’s largest fishing boat cost more than $100 million. CNADG has so far processed 20,000 metric tons of krill products.
Antarctica is home to more than 10,000 species, including rich reserves of fish and krill. The Southern Ocean represents about 10 percent of the Earth’s surface.
Fishing is just one element in China’s national strategy for the Antarctic.
The country is preparing to build its fifth research station on Antarctica, and plans to build an airfield to assist its researchers on the frozen continent, official sources said.
The region is regulated under the 1959 Antarctic Treaty. China signed the treaty in 1983 and was granted consultative status in 1985.
The country’s Antarctic program captured international attention in January 2014 when the Russian research vessel Akademik Shokalskiy became trapped in ice.
The scientists and passengers on board were evacuated by a helicopter from the Chinese icebreaking research ship Xue Long.
Liu said that, in addition to the Antarctic, CNADG is pursuing merger and acquisition opportunities globally, with a particular focus on Africa.