Citing a severe decline in fish stocks, biologists called for a 10-year ban on fishing in the Yangtze River, Oriental Morning Post reported Tuesday.
Cao Wenxuan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, stressed that a decade is necessary to ensure the recovery of endangered fish resources and the eco-system.
"Famous species like the hilsa herring and wild puffer fish are hard to find, while the precious paddlefish were last seen in the river in 2003," Cao said, adding that the fishing industry in Hunan Province declined more than 40 percent between 2008 and 2010.
Zhao Jindong, another academy member and a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, first suggested a ban on fishing on the Yangtze during the annual meeting of the country's top advisory body last year.
The State Council in 2003 imposed a ban on fishing on the river from April to June in 11 provinces through which the Yangtze flows.
Zhao said that fish populations increase during the spring ban, but heavy fishing afterward negates any recovery.
Cao said along with overfishing, water conservancy projects built along the river also harm fish resources.
"These projects mainly affect the variety of fish species, especially in the upper reaches where many fish species require flowing water. The conservancy projects have stalled the river's flow and endangered these fish," Cao said.
In response to Zhao's proposal, the Ministry of Agriculture agreed that "the ecological system in the Yangtze River is disintegrating," and the ministry is developing a compensation plan for fishers along the river, according to the Oriental Morning Post report.
Both Cao and Zhao agreed that properly caring for 140,000 fishers in 11 provinces affected by the total ban is crucial to the success of the plan.
Statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture showed in 2011 the total catch from the river was only 50,000 tons. "This amount cannot support the basic needs of the fishers," said the Ministry of Agriculture.
Zhao said fishing from the Yangtze accounts for less than 1 percent of the total production of China's freshwater fisheries, and banning fishing on the river will not greatly affect the nation's fishery as a whole, but will greatly improve local fish resources in the long run.