Jewels of the sea

Updated: 2012-08-02 10:51

By Liu Zhihua (China Daily)

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Jewels of the sea


Jewels of the sea

(Top) Chen Xu goes fishing in the sea surrounding the Xisha Islands. (Above) Chen holds a mackerel he caught by trolling in Xisha waters. Provided to China Daily

A former finance officer has made it his responsibility to conserve the environment of Xisha Islands. Liu Zhihua reports in Beijing.

Chen Xu is excited that the Xisha Islands are now part of a new city called Sansha in the southernmost province of Hainan. "Because that means it is now possible to raise the issue of environmental protection of the islands with the local government and to get their support," says the 44-year-old finance officer-turned-environmentalist. "I love the sea and the islands, and will do my best to protect them." He says he found his calling after a chance visit to Yongxing Island and Zhaoshu Island of Xisha Islands, in 2007. He says it was the most beautiful place he has ever seen. The natural environment took his breath away and he decided to move there.


Vision possible

Bombs away!

"The water is so clear. I was told it's even clearer than the Maldives," Chen says. "Apart from a few fishermen, Zhaoshu Island is tranquil, with charming beaches, trees, birds and sky. I felt peace immediately."

Chen visited the islands at the lowest point in his life. Although he was doing well as a senior client representative of a securities company in Sichuan's provincial capital Chengdu, he was bored and depressed.

He earned at least 500,000 yuan ($78,000) a year and traveled a lot, both within China and abroad. But he was not happy.

"I used to feel depressed every Monday, as I headed to the office. I felt stuck in a routine life and wanted to find a way out," Chen says.

The islands provided the answer. With the help of locals, Chen built a 20-square-meter wooden hut on Zhaoshu Island.

Like the other huts on the 190,000-square-meter island, the hut was minimally furnished. Even so, Chen says, life was "as sweet as in paradise".

He woke up without an alarm clock and spent his day fishing, diving and cooking his catch. At night, he went to bed lullabied by nature's music - the sounds of waves, birds, animals, insects and trees.

He has taken many photos of reefs, corals, fish and conches, among others.

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