HANGZHOU -- Overfishing and increasing pollution are destroying one of the
world's great fisheries in the East China Sea, new studies show, confirming the
fears of fishermen and environmentalists.
Eighty-one percent of the sea area has been rated category four for
pollution, the second worst of five pollution grades, in a survey by the
Zhejiang Provincial Environmental Bureau. The polluted area has expanded from 53
percent rated category four in 2000.
Known in China as the Zhoushan Fishery, the East China Sea area was listed
among the world's largest in the last century with its 20,800 square kilometers
providing a tenth of China's total catch in 2002.
The Zhoushan Fishery Bureau said on Tuesday that the annual catch dropped
from over 1.3 million tons in 2001 to 980,000 tons last year, and the quality of
fish species netted was degraded.
Meanwhile, the number of people employed in the Zhoushan fishing industry has
fallen from a high of 250,000 to an estimated 210,000.
The warning has been backed up by evidence from former fishermen such as Yu
Zhaozhang who decided to abandon his 30-year fishing career in 2003.
"There were fewer and fewer cash fish and more juvenile fish in each haul. I
realized that the lack of fish would soon put a lot of fishermen out of
business," said Yu, who now owns a sea-food restaurant.
The government of Zhoushan, the island city from which the fishery get its
name, has appropriated funding and provided training to help fishermen retrain
and set up new businesses, such as aquaculture, sea-food processing and marine
tourism, but the dwindling fishery is still trawled by thousands of vessels.
The ocean environmental survey, carried out by east China's Zhejiang
Province, which administers the fishery, has also shown the actual fishing area
has been nearly halved due to restrictions on fishing around the burgeoning
number of undersea pipelines and cables.
Chinese law forbids fishing within two kilometers of fiber-optic lines, oil
pipelines and electricity lines in the Zhoushan Fishery, putting 8,000 square
kilometers of the area technically out of bounds.
Marine environmental monitoring has shown that half of China's "red tides"
caused by pollution now appear in the Zhoushan Fishery. Pollutant samples show
petrochemical waste and heavy metal sediments are the main contaminants.
Ma Chaode, a water expert with the environmental group WWF China, said
pollution was making the Zhoushan Fishery unsustainable and destroying fish
stocks in one of the world's major sea fisheries.