China to implement a 10-year fishing ban in the Yangtze River in 2021

By Chen Shasha Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/15 18:20:31

Zhao Zelun anchors the boat in Zhongba Island in Chongqing, southwest China, Jan. 7, 2020. From Jan. 1, 2020, China began a 10-year fishing ban in key areas of the Yangtze River to protect biodiversity. Zhao, finishing his 30 years' career as fisherman, started a farm hostel business in Zhongba Island. Photo:Xinhua

China will ban fishing in some parts of the Yangtze River basin starting in January next year for the next 10 years, in a bid to defend the biological diversity in the river and provide sufficient time and space for the local ecological system to recuperate from widespread human activities and overfishing, China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs announced at a press conference on Wednesday.

Due to the upcoming campaign, more than 100,000 fishing boats and nearly 300,000 fishermen in 10 provincial-level regions along the Yangtze River basin will have to stop fishing in the river and nearby areas, according to media reports.

As of now, a total of 332 important aquatic reserves have been completely closed for fishing as planned, with nearly 80,000 fishing boats and 10,000 fishermen already withdrawn since the ban was first announced in January this year, Yu Kangzhen, vice minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, said at the press conference.

Shanghai, East China's Jiangxi Province and Southwest China's Yunnan Province have already completed the removal of fisherman and sealed fishing boats in advance.

The protection of ecological environments in the Yangtze River basin is a demanding task. The number of fish in the Yangtze River basin has experienced a sharp decline as a result of human activities such as overfishing, and the area's biological integrity index has reached the lowest "no fish" rating, according to a report by Beijing Youth Daily.

For example, the Yangtze River dolphin, or baiji (Lipotes vexillifer), a species local to the river, has yet to be seen by humans since 2004.

The fishery resources in the basin once accounted for 60 percent of China's total freshwater fishing output, but now accounts for 0.16 percent only, Yu said, adding that the ecological functions of the Yangtze River basin have deteriorated significantly in recent years.

The ban on fishing will help to restore the balance in the river's ecosystem, Li Zhiqing, deputy director of the environmental economic research center from Shanghai's Fudan University, told the Global Times.

However, Li stressed that efforts on the social end should also be stressed; for example, banning the eating and sale of precious aquatic species and reducing the level of industrial pollution, which has seriously damaged the quality of aquatic animals' habitats.

"The scale of emissions from industrial production and consumption, like sewage disposal and plastic bags, is very large, and many of them cannot be absorbed or dissolved naturally," Li said, adding that wide regulation and supervision is required to ensure balance is restored to the river's ecosystem.

China also called for solid nationwide efforts to ensure the livelihoods of fishermen who will be required to abandon their fishing posts amid the campaign. Song Xin, deputy director of the employment promotion department from China's Human Resources and Social Security, said that the majority of the affected fishermen are not young, and therefore may only have limited skills to support themselves.

In addition to creating job opportunities in other fields, China will develop the country's fishery-related industries such as pond fish farming and fishing for leisure, as well as support ecological protection projects to attract the river's affected fishermen, based on the biological advantages in related waters, the authority said. In addition, skill training and subsidies will be allocated to encourage the fishermen to start up new businesses of their own.

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