Thousands of fishermen and devotees of the Chinese sea goddess Matsu gathered at a fishing port in south China's Hainan Province on Thursday to pay tribute to the sea and celebrate the end of the summer fishing moratorium.

The annual event, which marks the end of the 75-day fishing ban imposed in the South China Sea, was attended by more than 2,400 people from the Chinese mainland and 600 from Taiwan this year.

The gathering of mainland and Taiwan fishermen and Matsu worshippers at Tanmen, one of the most important fishing ports in southern China, was the first of its kind, highlighting the crucial progress that has been made in cross-Strait cooperation in fishing, analysts said.

"It's a rare occasion for so many people to come across the Taiwan Strait to attend an event, which will surely help attendees exchange fishery experience and cooperate to jointly tap the global fishery market," said Chen Yunlin, a consultant with the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits.

Zhong Wen, a Hainan political advisor and one of the initiators of the event, said people will gain a greater awareness of the ocean by taking part in the event, and cross-Strait cooperation will be pushed to better explore and protect fishery resources in the South China Sea.

Fishermen from across the Strait have rarely cooperated in fishing in the South China Sea and Taiwan-funded enterprises in Hainan are mainly engaged in a few fishery sectors like fish fry breeding and aquaculture, said Liu Feng, head of the law and policy research institute at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies. "There is great potential for cross-Strait fishery cooperation."

Jack Huang, chairman of the Taiwan Provincial Fishermen's Association, sees cross-Strait fishery cooperation as a win-win choice as Taiwan can bring advanced technologies regarding open-sea fishing, fish fry breeding and cultivation, while the mainland can provide a huge market for production and consumption.

Huang was accompanied by a delegation of more than 200 fishermen from 39 fishermen's associations in Taiwan to attend the event.

"Most of these associations have no knowledge of Hainan's development, nor have they ever cooperated with local enterprises. I hope the visit will deepen their understanding of Hainan," Huang said.

Matsu, or Mazu in Mandarin Chinese, is widely revered in Taiwan and other coastal regions of southern China. There are an estimated 1,500 temples devoted to the goddess in Taiwan and another 200 in Hainan.


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