The Fish Farms of Hainan Island in the South China Sea

The southern coasts of this Chinese island are lined with tropical beaches, while the inner bays are lined with floating fishing villages.

Situated in the South China Sea, the large island of Hainan is China’s southernmost province, spanning approximately 339,000 hectares (1,300 square miles). This photograph, taken by an astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS), focuses on the landscape around Gangmen Harbor and captures many typical characteristics of Hainan: forested mountain terrain juxtaposed with dense populations. Cleared lands show up with bright orange and red soils that owe their color to the oxidation of iron-rich sediments. The coasts are lined with tropical beaches, while the inner bays are lined with floating fishing villages often built in a grid-like patterns in shallow waters.

Língshui Li Autonomous County, at the south end of Hainan, sustains a large nomadic sea community. China is already a world leader in wild catch fish production, and fish farming is rapidly expanding. China grows nearly 60 percent of the world’s farmed fish, particularly for carp and tilapia. These aquaculture sites are often paired with fishing ports (such as Gangmen) that provide efficient transport for fish, machinery, and construction materials needed to sustain aquacultural production.

Astronaut photograph ISS065-E-31198 was acquired on May 9, 2021, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 1150 millimeters. It is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 65 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Caption by Amber Turner and Andrea Meado, Jacobs, JETS Contract at NASA-JSC.

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