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Fishermen in Hainan and Guangdong provinces have resumed operation after the annual fishing ban in the northern part of the South China Sea was lifted on Wednesday, said local fishery authorities.
The fishing ban started on May 16 and ended at midday on Wednesday. The ban is part of ongoing efforts to protect marine resources and promote environmental awareness among fishermen, Huang Zuoping, an official from the South China Sea fishery bureau under the Ministry of Agriculture, told China Daily.
In Yangjiang, a port city in western Guangdong province, more than 1,000 fishing boats headed out to sea on Wednesday for the first time since their forced two-and-a-half-month break, after Liu Kun, a deputy governor of Guangdong, announced the opening of the province's fishing festival.
From Wednesday, more than 14,000 fishing boats registered in Guangdong province will start their journey to the South China Sea to fish, Liu said.
In Hainan province, about 9,000 ships holding 35,611 fishermen affected by the ban are going to fish in the South China Sea, according to Hainan provincial fishery authorities.
Lin Lijin, captain of Qiong Sanya 11181, plans to start fishing offshore from a port in Sanya, Hainan, on Saturday.
"During the past two and a half months, small fish grew large. Every year we will have a harvest of 10 to 20 tons after the fishing ban is lifted. After September, we will fish near Beibu Gulf of Guangxi, and then go to the Xisha Islands in Sansha city," Lin told China Daily on Wednesday.
Lin's ship had just finished an ocean fishing operation in the Nansha Islands from July 12 to July 29 as part of a trial to develop the industry in Nansha, which has abundant fishing resources. Most of the area is excluded in the annual fishing ban.
According to fishery authorities in Hainan, the 18-day operation to Nansha marked the beginning of the province gradually moving from offshore fishing to ocean fishing.
Chen Yiping, who owns a 110-ton ship Qionghai 03889, started his ocean fishing operation on Wednesday afternoon in waters off the Xisha Islands from Tanmen port in Hainan province.
"Sailors in my ship prepared all the stuff for the operation in recent days. As the voyage is about one month long, we also stored enough vegetables and food," Chen said.
Popular sea products like lobsters and sea snails could be easily found in the Xisha Islands, and fish in the area are much larger than those in offshore areas, the captain said.
Chen said with more ships fishing because the ban is lifted, the price of sea products will drop in the short term.
With the establishment of Sansha city in July, Chen hopes more processing factories will be established in the new city, which could save fishermen time and money.
The fishing ban in the South China Sea, which has been in place since 1999, has been imposed for two and a half months since 2009, and covers areas north of the 12th parallel north, including Huangyan Island but excluding most of the Nansha Islands.
Fishermen who ignore the ban will face punishments such as fines, license revocations, confiscations and possible criminal charges, according to a statement issued by the fishery bureau under the Ministry of Agriculture. The fishing ban is also applicable to foreign ships.
According to Zheng Weiyi, director of Guangdong Administration of Ocean and Fisheries, none of the fishing boats in Guangdong broke any rules during the ban period.
And more than 20,000 law enforcement personnel and 4,000 enforcement vessels patrolled the Guangdong waters to prevent local fishermen from violating the fishing ban, Zheng said.
In East China's Fujian province, a fishing ban was also expected to end on Wednesday, but as the coast is expected to be battered by gales and rainstorms brought about by typhoon Saola from Wednesday to Sunday, the ban was extended in order to protect local fishermen, the fishery authorities of Fujian said.
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Zheng Caixiong in Guangzhou contributed to this story.