Linyuan's Mini-Abalone Expert: Lin Sheng-mo
Linyuan, one of Kaohsiung's coastal districts, is famous for mini-abalone aquaculture. But it was not always so, and the man who started it all is not even a native of Kaohsiung. Mr. Lin Sheng-mo grew up in Taiwan's northeast, and got his start in the mini-abalone business when he was 18. He was so passionate about the trade that he traveled all over Taiwan, searching for the ideal environment. He settled in Kaohsiung, becoming the first mini-abalone farmer in Linyuan. He eventually became an authority revered by his peers.
The heyday of Kaohsiung's mini-abalone industry was around 2001, when as many as 200 farmers worked to give this part of Taiwan a greater mini-abalone output than any other city or county in Taiwan. But then a virus hit. Almost the entire crop was wiped out, and the number of mini-abalone farmers in Kaohsiung fell to just 10. Even Mr. Lin was unable to save his crop and he stopped farming for four years. But he loved his work and tried again. This time, he chose to raise mini-abalone in a more eco-friendly way, bearing in mind not only the health of his crop, but also the health of consumers and nearby ecosystems.
Mr. Lin's abalone farm is about 1000 ping (about a third of a hectare or 35,580 square feet) and divided into several sections for abalones at different stages of growth, from babies to fully grown, ready-for-market gastropods. He not only sells grown abalone to consumers, but also supplies youngsters to his fellow farmers. His farming pools have been designed to resemble the abalones' natural habitat as much as possible, and he keeps the population density low to reduce the risk of a mass die-out. Each pool is around 20 ping (approximately 771 square feet) and lined with cement cubes. The abalones live right under these cubes. Mr. Lin draws seawater from tidal flats 400m (a quarter of a mile) from his farm, and the water is tested regularly to ensure its quality before being released into the pools. Mr. Lin has invested in a water-recycling system; the water he draws from the ocean is used at least four times: first it reaches the abalone pools; from there it goes to fish pools; and then to algae pools (abalone food); and to fish pools again, before being discharged. Baby snails take about one year to grow to full size, and they weigh about 20g each (0.7 oz) when harvested.
Mr. Lin jokes that he loves this business so much because it is a lazy man's dream job. After all, adult abalones need only be fed once a week. But, in fact, he is at the farm day in and day out, even if the weather is hot or rainy. It appears easy; Mr. Lin only needs take one look at the pool and sniff the water to know if everything is well. But this ability took him 38 years of hard work to cultivate, and is unequaled. As a veteran in the aquaculture business, Mr. Lin said he is happiest when working on his farm. He believes there is always a market for high-quality seafood and the future is going to be better and brighter.
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