Patriotic proteins

fish w

Tsukiji market in Tokyo is famous for selling some of the world’s finest tuna. But in Fuzhou there is another frenetic fish sale underway. In this case, customers are clamouring to buy 8,300 pounds of ‘patriotic fish’. According to China News Service, the entire stock of fish and sea urchins sold out in just two hours.

The 82 year-old former government official behind the sale is Lin Zailang, who tells consumers they can “steam it, make soup, braise, slice or fry it – it’s all possible”.

But it isn’t how the fish tastes that makes it most in demand. More, it is where it is being caught. Lin’s team is operating near a disputed island that the Chinese call Meiji Reef, but which is also known as Mischief Reef. Cultivating fish farms near the reef, says Lin, is the equivalent to “safeguarding national sovereignty”, and keeping the South China Sea indisputably Chinese.

Lin, who once served as deputy director of Hainan’s fisheries bureau, has been farming fish at the reef since 2007 and sends teams of fishermen from his home county of Pingtan to manage the project.

The New York Times suggests it is not really a commercial venture, given the costly logistics of transporting the fish first to Sanya (to be frozen) and then on another long journey to Fuzhou to be sold.

Lin agrees that his work near the reef is “very important, whether from a political, military or economic standpoint, so we must persist”. The territory is also claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam, but China took physical control of it in 1994.

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