BEIJING, July 20, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — In the early summer, the Yangtze River is lush with greenery along its banks, with fish swimming in the crystal clear waters.
For a long time in the past, however, the Yangtze River scenery had been quite different. Due to overfishing and other human activities, numbers of rare and endemic species in Yangtze River waters declined, with several fish species favored for commercial purposes close to depletion.
That was until a 10-year fishing ban went into full effect on January 1, 2021. From then on, the 10-year fishing moratorium in all natural waterways along the Yangtze River came into effect, with some 231,000 fishermen handing in nearly 111,000 boats in a dozen provincial-level regions, leading to a comprehensive green transformation of the economic and social development of the Yangtze River Basin.
The 10-year fishing ban in the Yangtze River is a strategic initiative mainly aimed at restoring the ecology of the Yangtze River. We will see the results in 10 years, said Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is also the general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, when he inspected local efforts in improving the overall environment along the shoreline of the Yangtze River, as well as the enforcement of fishing-ban policies, in Nantong, East China’s Jiangsu Province in November 2020. Nantong is a city along the Yangtze River.
The 19th Central Committee of the CPC has attached greater importance to the protection of the Yangtze River. With such a goal in place, CPC members have strengthened their responsibility and commitment to working on the frontlines in the strict implementation of the fishing-ban initiative, which is of great significance to the promotion of the Yangtze River Economic Belt green development, safeguarding the interests of people along the river, and guaranteeing national ecological security.
Forty-six-year-old Mo Hongyuan, deputy chief of the Yichang Fishery Supervision Detachment in Central China’s Hubei Province, is one of the strivers. Mo’s daily work is fighting illegal fishing activities and providing advice to fishermen who have returned ashore.
“As a CPC member, I feel very honored to participate in the 10-year fishing-ban campaign on China’s mother river and actually see positive results,” Mo told the Global Times.
In order to save the life of a Yangtze finless porpoise, passage of ships along the Yichang section of China’s “Golden Waterway” was halted for 12 minutes. Four months ago, the successful conclusion of a thrilling rescue operation was the most fulfilling thing Mo has done by far this year.
On February 9, Mo received a warning that a Yangtze finless porpoise was ensnared in abandoned ropes in the river. He immediately rushed to the porpoise’s location while contacting the Three Gorges Navigation Command Center to request for a ship slowdown so as not to risk injury to the porpoise.
After having received emergency instructions from the command center, all the vessels waiting to cross the lock at the Gezhouba Dam on the river did not hesitate to comply.
In the end, with the coordinated efforts of Mo and members from a rescue team, it took 20 minutes to free the porpoise. According to observations made later, the porpoise also gave birth successfully in the Yangtze River.
“We all treasure the Yangtze finless porpoise, which is a unique endemic species to the Yangtze River. At present, in Yichang, people can see them. This reflects the effectiveness of the national fishing ban and other ecological management measures taken on the river in recent years,” Mo said.
Mo, who had served in the PLA Air Force for 16 years, joined the CPC during a military exercise in 2000. In his eyes, party membership is synonymous with responsibility and commitment.
In 2011, Mo retired from the army and was assigned to the Yichang Fishery Supervision Detachment to take up the responsibilities of fisheries ecological environmental protection and law enforcement supervision. At the time, he was worried about the status of the endangered Yangtze finless porpoise.
Feeding on small fish and shrimp, porpoises had gradually disappeared following a sharp decline in fishery resources in the Yangtze River. Before 2015, the number of finless porpoises in the Yichang section of the Yangtze River was only two to three. But in 2018, data showed that about 1,012 Yangtze finless porpoises remained, Mo noted.
Mo said that Yichang used to be hard hit by overfishing because it is located at the junction of the upper and middle reaches of the Yangtze River and the heart of the Three Gorges Dam reservoir area. These factors, combined with an abundance of fishery resources, made it ripe for illegal fishing.
“Driven by economic interests, fishermen working illegally are highly organized and difficult to detect. However, we always take a zero-tolerance approach toward illegal fishing and never ignore any clues.” he noted.
“Fisheries law enforcement is dangerous and stressful, but fortunately, our law enforcement team listens to the Party command and has a strong sense of duty and responsibility. Party members always commit to the task at hand on frontline,” Mo noted.
The day before his interview with the Global Times, Mo had just concluded a nighttime patrol mission.
In June, which is fish breeding season, fish go near the shore to spawn where a handful of criminals lurk. Mo said that at present, their law enforcement team works on a 24-hour rotating duty schedule, and not only conducts patrols along the river , but also carries out unannounced inspections and visits to restaurants that sell freshwater fish.
Since 2018, Yichang has taken the lead in banning fishing and in setting up a natural reserve for the Chinese sturgeon. Mo has dealt with 39 cases of illegal fishing and has seized 347 kilograms of illegally caught fish.
Mo said that the central government’s fishing-ban policies not only took out a thunderous force, but also consolidated the results with a series of long-term scientific regulatory mechanism.
“The central government has integrated maritime, public security, river waterway and market supervision authorities to establish a round-the-clock, full coverage law enforcement and supervision network, demonstrating China’s determination to ban overfishing and forming a strong deterrent,” he said.
Through the joint efforts of the provinces and municipalities along the river and the relevant departments, the current Yangtze River fishing ban has achieved phased results.
Mo and his teammates realized that their next stage’s work should to be carried out to a higher standard.
“From regulating fishing activities in natural waterways to ensuring the resettlement of fishermen, all aspects of the work have to be meticulously implemented to achieve an increase in fish stocks, better water quality, and people’s greater happiness,” Mo said.
In Mo’s view, the resolute implementation of the 10-year fishing ban along the Yangtze River reflects the courage and boldness of the CPC rather than a series of arbitrary, one-size-fits-all initiatives.
Mo noted that since 2016, agricultural authorities in Yichang have carried out several surveys of fishing-ban measures to better understand the sentiments and urgent needs of fishermen, which has laid a foundation for local fishermen to transition to work on land after giving up fishing.
By the end of March 2022, Hubei Province had raised 5.885 billion yuan ($874 million) in compensation and subsidies for those who have quit fishing. At the same time, through employment services, skills training, entrepreneurial support, and other initiatives, 23,396 fishermen have made a successful switch to other fields of work.
Some of the retired fishermen were recruited as river rangers, with each person receiving an additional government subsidy of 10,000 yuan a year.
“I was once worried about how the livelihoods of these fishermen would be secured after they have given up fishing, because the reality of survey results in some areas showed that more than half of the fishermen had less than a junior high school education. But now that I see them living and working happily, I am glad that the starting point and the foothold of the ruling Party’s policies are the interests of the people,” Mo said.
Mo believes the 10-year fishing ban is a publicity campaign, in which monitoring is the main objective, but the change in public opinion is key.
In order to get more people to join the ranks in protecting the Yangtze River. Mo often distributes brochures in the community to disseminate information on the dangers that illegal fishing could cause to the ecology of the Yangtze River. With calls from people like Mo, more and more enterprises, organizations, and individuals are joining the fishing-ban campaign. Straw Circle and The Three Gorges Antworks Team are two of them.The Straw Circle, an NGO, has long been committed to protecting the Yangtze finless porpoise, and The Three Gorges Antworks Team has regularly organized volunteers to clean up garbage from both sides of the river.
Mo, and millions of other Chinese people who care about the Yangtze River, are confident about the future ecological restoration effect.
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SOURCE Global Times