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China and the United States established an ecological partnership on Thursday to protect the Yangtze and Mississippi rivers from common environmental threats.
The agreement was signed between the Yangtze River Basin Fisheries Resources Management Committee and the Nature Conservancy, a US-based international conservation organization.
The partnership is the 18th signed between China and the United States since the two countries agreed to the 10-Year Energy and Environment Cooperation Framework in 2008, according to a statement released at a news conference in Beijing.
The move is seen as a major effort to create more opportunities for practical cooperation between the two countries in a wide range of areas, such as water resources protection and biodiversity preservation.
"The Yangtze River, China's longest river, now has suffered severe declines in its wild fishing resources in recent years, partly because of overfishing and increasing construction work along the river," said Li Furong, head of the regional bureau of East China Sea fishery management under the Ministry of Agriculture.
In response, a three-month fishing ban is imposed on the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River starting in April every year.
Fishing is also banned in the upper reaches of the river annually from February to the end of April.
The ban this year was the 11th annual attempt to preserve biodiversity in the river, which is home to 1,100 types of aquatic life.
But the populations of some well-known species in the Yangtze River are still declining by as much as 5 percent a year, according to the regional bureau of East China Sea fishery management.
"Facing such great challenges, we need greater sharing of experience in terms of river management and protection of fishery resources," Li said.
Charles Bedford, managing director of the Asia-Pacific region for the Nature Conservancy, told the press conference that the Yangtze-Mississippi cooperation will make significant advancements in ecosystem protection, fisheries monitoring, resource surveys, fisheries policy and invasive species management.
"Exchanges will be at the core of this cooperation, and both parties will receive benefits," he said.
One point of cooperation is that China is already planning ways to help address the influx of invasive Asian carp in the Mississippi, the largest river in the United States.
"Asian carp is one of major fish species that China puts into the Yangtze River during the annual fishing ban to rescue its declining fishery resources. Certainly, the country's rich experience breeding these fish will help the Mississippi to control the invasive species," Yang Bo, an expert on fresh water management from the Nature Conservancy told China Daily.