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Fishing Bans on Pearl, Yangtze to Help Declining Stock

CHINA - Seasonal fishing bans will be imposed on the Pearl River and the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River in April.

The move is part of China's efforts to rescue its declining wild fishing resources, and is in addition to bans in six other provinces and regions. A two month ban will cover the 2,400-kilometer Pearl River, China's third-longest river, as well as its tributaries and some lakes, reports ChinaDaily.

Meanwhile, a three month ban will affect the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, from Gezhouba Dam in Hubei province to Shanghai's Chongming Island.

Fishing is usually banned in the upper reaches of the river annually from February to the end of April.

The ban is the 11th annual attempt to preserve biodiversity in the country's longest river, home to 1,100 aquatic species and to two-thirds of those on the list of protected wildlife.

Liu Tianrong, deputy director of the South China Sea Fishery Bureau, said that the ban on the Pearl River last year greatly helped improve fish varieties and increased fishermen's income after the ban.

For example, the number of newly hatched fish in the Pearl River increased by 67.5 per cent in 2011 from 2006, he said at a news conference in Guangzhou. Last year, more than 29 million newly-hatched fish were put into the river during the ban.

Local civil affairs bureaus will provide subsidies to fishermen with low incomes during the ban.

Last year, more than 28,000 fishing boats and 114,426 fishermen were affected by the ban.

But the number of some well-known species in the Yangtze River is still declining by five per cent annually, statistics from the Regional Bureau of East China Sea Fishery Management show.

Some veteran fishermen in Shanghai told China Daily on Tuesday that catching fish with illegal equipment is rampant, and many unlicensed fishing boats have flocked to Shanghai to "fish for gold".

"A knifefish weighing 150 grams sells for 1,000 yuan ($160) nowadays, so some fishermen are putting up a desperate fight to catch the fish by using illegal fishing gear," said a fisherman, who declined to be named.

"The management agencies are turning a blind eye to the lawbreakers. They carry out campaigns only after some news reports expose illegal fishing despite repeated prohibitions," he said.

China has experienced a rapid growth in its fishery industry in recent years, with increasing aquatic product output and prices, as well as soaring exports.

The country's aquatic product output hit 56.1 million metric tons last year, a 4.4 per cent annual increase, according to the fishery administration under the Ministry of Agriculture.

The country's exports of aquatic products approached $17.8 billion last year, accounting for nearly 30 percent of its total agricultural product exports, according to the General Administration of Customs.

But experts believed fishery harvests now greatly rely on the booming captive breeding, as the country's wild fishing resources are declining.

For instance, China plans to increase its annual aquatic product output to 60 million tons in 2015, of which more than 75 per cent will come from captive breeding, official figures show.

Qiu Yongsong, a researcher with the South China Sea Fisheries Research Institute under the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences, told China Daily on Tuesday that years of over-fishing and pollution triggered by urbanization have led to an obvious decline in wild fishing output and that some rare species have not been seen for years in the rivers and seas.

Lucy Towers

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