-- The Yangtze River, China's longest waterway, boasts one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world. However, the protection situation of some rare and unique aquatic species is grim.
-- In January, in a significant move to protect biodiversity, China began a 10-year fishing moratorium in 332 conservation areas in the basin, which will expand to all the natural waterways of the river and its major tributaries from no later than Jan. 1, 2021.
-- The effort is seeing notable results. The biodiversity is recovering in the Yangtze, with the species number increasing, endangered species protected, and water quality further improved.
Instead of sailing a boat and catching fish on the Yangtze River, ex-fisherman Wang Gende's daily work now is skippering an engineering boat to provide port services on the longest waterway in China.
"Many kinds of fish and creatures have reappeared after fishermen moved ashore and stopped fishing," said Wang, from Yuanjiang Village in Anqing City, east China's Anhui Province.
The Yangtze, which stretches over 6,300 km, has a rich and complex terrain and climate along its basin and boasts one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world.
A finless porpoise is seen in the Yangtze River in Yichang, central China's Hubei Province, Aug. 3, 2020. (Photo by Lei Yong/Xinhua)
According to China's 2019 bulletin on aquatic biological resources and habitat status in the Yangtze River basin, the water quality in major fishery waters is good. However, the protection situation of some rare and unique aquatic species is still grim.
In January this year, in a significant move to protect biodiversity, China began a 10-year fishing moratorium in 332 conservation areas in the basin, which will expand to all the natural waterways of the river and its major tributaries from no later than Jan. 1, 2021.
The effort is seeing notable results. "The biodiversity is recovering in the Yangtze. The species number has so far increased to 79 in the Jiangsu section of the river from 48 at the beginning of 2017," said Zhang Jianjun, deputy director of the department of agriculture and rural affairs of east China's Jiangsu Province.
Wang's family has been fishing for generations. In the past decades, 55-year-old Wang personally experienced the depleting fishing resources of the Yangtze.
"In the 1980s, we could catch over 50 kg of fish a day, and many were big. Yet the number has slumped to less than 10 kg, and some species, like pufferfish, have been absent from our nets since 2000," Wang recalled.
Ex-fisherman Wang Gende arranges ropes on an engineering boat in Anqing, east China's Anhui Province, Dec. 16, 2020. (Xinhua/Zhou Mu)
In recent years, the annual catch from the Yangtze has fallen to less than 100,000 tonnes from more than 420,000 tonnes in the 1950s, accounting for only 0.32 percent of China's total freshwater aquatic products.
As early as 2019, Wang and 587 other fishermen in the village bid farewell to their fishing boats. "Our boats were dismantled, and the government offered us subsidies of some 170,000 yuan (about 26,000 U.S. dollars) and social security services," said Wang.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, 231,000 fishermen on 111,000 boats have to date relinquished their nets in ten provincial regions along the river.
Meanwhile, an annual number of over 5 billion captive-bred fish fries have been released into the river, said the ministry.
"Now there are no fishing boats on the river, and sometimes I can see people releasing fish fries in the river. They're good signs, showing the recovering biodiversity," said Wang.