Chinese fisherman buys dream island

Chinese fisherman buys dream island
In a photo taken on October 22, 2013 a woman and child walk across a bridge in a park in Fuzhou, Fujian province.

To many people, buying an uninhabited island seems like a far-off dream. But one entrepreneur from Fuzhou, Fujian province, has spent more than 300 million yuan (S$60 million) to make this dream a reality.

Yao Caiming, president of Fujian Mingdao Industrial Co, bought Yangyu Island in Fuzhou's Lianjiang county in 2012.

As a young coastal villager, Yao could see the island every day, and when he captained fishing vessels at 21, he got to know the waters. After years of fishing he noticed the supply was drying up and he had to travel farther to make a catch.

"I wanted to contribute to the ecological preservation of these waters and ensure an adequate fish supply, so that future generations won't have to travel so far out to sea," Yao said.

In 2010, a law was introduced that granted the right to buy and use uninhabited islands for up to 50 years.

Sensing an opportunity to realise his dream, Yao applied to purchase Yangyu Island.

The island in the Minjiang River estuary occupies 330 acres, and its waters were known for abundant shoals of yellow croakers.

Yao had a vision to develop fishing first and then use the profits to develop on the island.

According to Cheng Xiejian, a manager with the company, the development project involves three phases.

The first entails boosting the supply of yellow croakers. In the second, the company aims to establish a marine life farm and in the third, build a tourist resort.

Yao said the most difficult part of developing an uninhabited island is raising the capital. He got a loan of 80 million yuan from China Minsheng Bank's Fuzhou branch, with ownership of the island as collateral.

Not surprisingly, developers have shown interest in Yao's venture, and the Fujian Department of Ocean and Fisheries has issued a list of 20 uninhabited islands that can be developed.

The listed islands have good terrain and are close to mainland areas that will only be leased for tourism use, the State Oceanic Administration said.

Bidders are required to invest at least 500 million yuan on an island with the annual investment reaching 50 million yuan, according to the Fujian Department of Ocean and Fisheries.

It said construction should start in the first year after signing the contract and be completed within three years.

Developers have to submit detailed development plans to local marine administrative authorities and construction cannot begin until their plan is approved, according to the country's Island Protection Law.

According to official figures, the province has 2,114 uninhabited islands, 132 of which can be developed into tourist resorts.

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