Bohai Sea expects major cleanup
Thanks to renewed efforts to save its ecosystem, the Bohai Sea in East China should see its pollution easing and depleted fish stocks recover in the years ahead.
That is the news from the Ministry of Agriculture, which released the Bohai Fauna and Flora Resources Conservation Regulations, Wednesday outlining how it will strictly curb overfishing and illegal discharges of pollutants into the sea.
The landmark regulations will take effect on May 1, replacing a statute formulated in 1991, said Li Jianhua, vice-director of the ministry's Fisheries Bureau.
The 78,000-square-kilometre sea has been a economic lifeline for tens of thousands of fishermen in surrounding Tianjin Municipality, Shandong, Liaoning and Hebei provinces.
Yet it has become the most heavily polluted of China's coastal waters, largely because of industrial, agricultural wastes, everyday sewage and oil spillage spewing into its waters, scientists say.
In 1992, figures showed that about one-fourth of the sea area was contaminated. The polluted area expanded to 41.3 per cent by 2002, bureau statistics indicated.
Pollution, coupled with the over-exploitation by fisheries, has cut the annual take of prawns -- one of the most commercially important and abundant species in Bohai -- from 340,000 tons in the 1970s to slightly more than 1,000 tons, according to the ministry.
To reverse the situation,the ministry's new regulations stipulates that permits are needed for fishing or for building breeding farms.Fishing will be confined to specific areas and periods with quotas and with only approved fishing tools, according to the rules.
In particular, no frys or genetically-modified fish species or species foreign to Bohai are allowed to be released or raised in the aquatic farms without approval from the Ministry of Agriculture, the regulations state.
Meanwhile, a fishing ban continues to be imposed between June 6 and September 1.
In addition to investigating oil spills, the rules say local fishery bureaux must enhance monitoring of red tides -- discolorations caused by toxic algae that have occurred more than 40 times since the 1980s.
Duan Yunfa, an official in charge of the Bohai, Wednesday said the size of the fishing fleet should be cut drastically.
In 1986, about 19,800 boats fished on the sea, while last year the number hit 29,200.
Duan said a large number of fishermen will be encouraged to do non-fishing jobs.
Safety officials have begun sealing discharge pipelines on ships since last May, a move to help halt the discharge of water carrying waste oil.Special facilities have been set up on shore to collect waste water.