More people getting hooked on sea fishing
Updated: 2012-10-01 08:21
By Wang Wen (China Daily)
Boat makers look to enthusiasts to weather global economic slump
Yu Liqun enjoys nothing more than fishing in the East China Sea.
"I bought my first fishing yacht in 2002 and since then, I have enjoyed sailing and fishing on the sea," said Yu, a professional sea fisherman who recently purchased his fourth fishing yacht.
It is more cost-effective for sea fishing fans to buy yachts than rent boats, Yu said.
Sea fishing enthusiasts near Ningbo, Zhejiang province. Around 600,000 people in China spend more than 10,000 yuan on sea fishing every year, and 10 to 15 percent of them would like to buy yachts, according to Zhejiang Marine Tourism Research Center. Jin Liwang / China Daily
Rental costs are increasing, with the price of each fishing trip ranging between 3,000 yuan ($476) and 5,000 yuan.
"I only spent around 20,000 yuan on my yacht and the fishing gear on it," Yu said. "And I can go fishing any time as I like."
In Zhoushan, Zhejiang province, Yu's hometown and an important fishing area in China, sea fishing enthusiasts have bought around 50 yachts over the past couple of years, with an average of two yachts added to the fleet every month, Yu said.
"The yacht business has a bright future among sea fishing enthusiasts," he added.
The growing number of sea fishing enthusiasts in China means that the nation's yacht manufacturers have turned their attention from overseas to the domestic market in recent years.
Around 600,000 people in China spend more than 10,000 yuan on sea fishing every year, and 10 to 15 percent of them would like to buy yachts, according to Zhejiang Marine Tourism Research Center.
The global economic recession has also encouraged Chinese yacht manufacturers to explore the domestic market.
In the past, most yachts made in China were exported, to more than 70 countries and regions, but amid global economic woes, exports have taken a turn for the worse over the past few years.
"Our export volume fell almost 50 percent last year," said Liu Dianfang, deputy general manager of Xiamen Feipeng Co, the parent company of Hudson Yacht & Marine Co Ltd and another seven boat-building companies.
Liu said the company used to export almost 20,000 yachts annually, with some costing millions of dollars.
"The domestic market is getting more important for us now," he said.
But compared with the Western market, China's yacht consumption is in its infancy.
By the end of 2010, there were 1,500 yachts in China, but the number was 15,747,300 in the United States and 5,673,455 in Europe by the end of 2008, according to a report released by the China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association.
The perception that all yachts are luxuries and only purchased by the super rich has limited the expansion of China's yacht market, business insiders said.
"Actually, the largest group of consumers of yachts is the middle class, buying low and medium-end yachts priced between 30,000 and 1 million yuan, such as fishing yachts and sailing boats," said Zheng Weihang, secretary-general of the association.
It is also an international tendency that small yachts occupy the greatest market share.
More than 80 percent of yachts worldwide are no larger than 18 meters and priced between $15,000 and $50,000, Zheng said. Luxury yachts only account for a 2.5-percent market share.
Fishing yachts could be the beachhead for manufacturers to expand their domestic business, he said.
Fishing yachts are small yachts no larger than 9.8 meters.
As the luxury yacht business has suffered more from the global economic recession, small yachts may offer manufacturers a much-needed lifeline.
Ferretti Group, one of the top builders of luxury yachts in the world, sold a 75 percent stake to Shandong Heavy Industry Group Co Ltd, a State-owned machinery maker, in January. The debt-laden luxury yacht maker is based in Italy.
"The deal shows that the luxury yacht industry is already declining," said Ma Zhengming, president of Shanghai Heritage Yacht Inc and USA West Marine Depot Inc.
There are more than 350 yachtmakers in the mainland, but most of them can only produce low-end yachts due to their limited technological and design capabilities, the association said in a report published in 2011.
A fishing yacht in Ningbo, Zhejiang province. By the end of 2010, there were 1,500 yachts in China, compared with 15,747,300 in the United States by the end of 2008, according to a report released by the China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association. Provided to China Daily
Even Chinese manufacturers' high-end yachts still cannot compete with the offerings from foreign manufacturers, business insiders said.
Chinese yacht manufactures are good at producing small yachts, such as fishing yachts, said Zheng Weihang.
The increased popularity of sea fishing as a leisure pursuit means fishermen can give up their traditional jobs and offer their services to sea fishing enthusiasts.
The growing popularity of fishing yachts is also supported by local governments in fishing areas.
A yachting marina with 26 berths has already been established in Xiangshan county, Zhejiang province, which is one of the most important fishing areas in China, and a larger marina with 120 berths is on the drawing board, said Qiu Jinyue, deputy head of Xiangshan county.
"It is an attempt to combine sea fishing and yachting in fishing areas. The marinas will be operated by the government as public marinas," Qiu said.
The local government also plans to convert some of the more than 3,000 large fishing vessels in the county into fishing yachts and rent them to sea fishing enthusiasts.
However, in order to prosper, the sector still needs to overcome some obstacles.
A lack of regulation is a problem that the fishing yacht sector has in common with the entire yachting industry.
"The maritime authorities have strict rules making it difficult to apply to go sailing," said Xie Boyi, a member of the National Yacht Development Experts Committee.
Some yachts owners have sailed without the permission of the authorities, which is dangerous, Xie said, but they do not have other choices.
The authorities also have a strict policy on foreign yachts and crews who want to enter Chinese waters.
Sea fishing enthusiasts' activities in yachts on the sea should also be regulated in order to protect the sea.
All of China's fishing areas currently suffer from over-fishing and it would be good for marine resources to develop sea fishing with yachts, said Wang Yixin, deputy director of Zhejiang Marine Tourism Research Center.
But every sea fishing enthusiast should take away no more than eight kilograms of fish each time, Wang said.