Our day began at 8 am with a 30 minute ride on the Beijing subway to Tiananmen Square. It was the morning rush hour, so at each stop the morning commuters piled into the subway, really packing themselves in. But just when you thought there was absolutely no way anymore people could fit into the subway car, another 10-12 would find a way to squeeze in. At one point I thought we lost Wen but then I spotted him right next to me buried in the crowd.
Wen trying to survive in the Beijing subway
Our meeting with the administrators and scientists at the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences (CAFS) was scheduled for 2 pm, so our plan was to walk around the square a bit and then tour the Forbidden City in the morning. The Forbidden City is located at one end of the square. Tiananmen square is similar to the National Mall in Washington D.C., a place where people can walk around and see the national museums, monuments, government and other historical buildings.
My first impressions of the Forbidden City was how big it was, layer after layer of walls, temples and courtyards. It is difficult to put into words how big the Forbidden City is…at first you are amazed at the 4-5 main temples and courtyards when you first walk through, each courtyard could fit more than half a dozen football fields inside of it, but then you start working your way through the smaller courtyards, gardens and living quarters, seeing the sculptures, state treasures and artwork, when you begin to realize that everything you just saw was only about a third of the City. They call it a City for a reason and it is truly one of the the most magnificent places I have ever been to.
Entrance to the Forbidden City
After our morning tour, we went back to the hotel to get ready for our meeting at CAFS. The headquarters of CAFS was just a 10 minute walk from our hotel. We walked over and made our way to a meeting room upstairs on the second floor. We were greeted by Professor Li Yingren, who is the Director of the Division of Academic Exchange and Cooperation for CAFS. He introduced himself and the staff in attendance and then gave us an overview of CAFS and how it is structured. The Vice President of CAFS Liu Qing then joined the meeting a few minutes later. She was on travel, had just flown back into Beijing and made her way to the headquarters for our meeting. Eric Hallerman introduced our group and then gave an overview of the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Tech.
Our academic exchange meeting at the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences
The CAFS is under the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture and was officially established in 1978. It has 22 research institutes and centers located across 11 provinces and municipalities, covering all major sea areas and river reaches in China. The FFRC is one of the research centers. The headquarters in Beijing provides the leadership platform for the academy’s management and research priorities. The CAFS priorities include: (1) Conservation and utilization of fishery resources, (2) Assessment and protection of the fishery ecological environment, (3) Biotechnology, (4) Genetic breeding, (5) Disease control, (6) Aquaculture, (7) Processing and product utilization, (8) Aquatic product quality and safety, (9) Fishery equipment and engineering, and (10) Information and strategic development studies. Further, each of these main priority areas has multiple priorities within it.
Our meeting at CAFS was very engaging. It was scheduled for one hour, from 2-3 pm, but we finished at 4 pm instead. We talked about ongoing fisheries projects in China, the possibilities for student exchanges, the listing of species on their National Protection Catalog (currently 80 species are listed on the catalog), the difficulties of protecting aquatic species in rivers and lakes, introduction of exotic species in China and the United States, conservation of cool water species such as the Amur sturgeon and the Hucho (Hucho taimen), their national water quality monitoring network which includes 42 stations around the country, and interestingly, using mollusks to monitor heavy metals in freshwater and marine environments and the role mollusks can play in carbon sequestration. For example, Professor Wang Xiaomei talked about monitoring heavy metals in mollusks in Taihu Lake, near Wuxi. Again, the conservation challenges here are so similar to our own, from rare species protection to monitoring water quality.
After our meeting at CAFS, we went to another part of Beijing to meet Professor Lei Guangchum and six of his students for dinner. He is the Dean of the College of Nature Conservation at Beijing Forestry University. They are studying conservation of wetlands, for example how some of the natural lakes downstream of Three Gorges Dam are being cut-off from the main river water supplies, and how dyke systems are diminishing smaller natural wetlands. However, he has had a wide ranging career, to include studying the remaining tigers in south China. Our evening with them was very enjoyable. Nice to see the passion his students have for conservation, to hear about their projects.
More of the days photos can be seen at: