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Fishing fleet cutback preserves resources
By Zhao Huanxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-12-30 00:31

China's fishery authorities yesterday pledged to continue downsizing the country's fishing fleet to help cap overfishing and preserve resources.

Liu Zheng, deputy director of the Fisheries Bureau at the Ministry of Agriculture, yesterday said at least 7,950 fishing boats had withdrawn from China's offshore waters by November.

Meanwhile, the bureau had transferred 40,000 fishermen to other jobs between January and November, he told a national gathering of provincial fishery chiefs yesterday in Beijing.

The efforts are part of an eight-year plan that started last year to cut the number of China's offshore fishing vessels by 10 per cent -- from 222,000 at the end of 2002 to 192,000 in 2010, according to Zhang Hecheng, another bureau official.

"As a country with the world's largest number of fishing vessels and fishermen, China will strictly control its fishing by cutting its fishing workforce and vessels," Liu said.

This will help reverse the deterioration of the offshore environment and replenish fishery resources, he said.

The deputy director asked provincial fishery chiefs to beef up schemes to reduce the numbers of boats in fishing fleets through various means, including capping the building of new vessels, scrapping unseaworthy ships and implementing fishing permit systems.

Apart from curbing offshore fishing through downsizing fleets, the country plans to expand aquaculture (fish farming) operations, Liu said.

To pursue sustainable fishery development, China has turned to vigorously developing aquaculture, and since 1999, it has been pursuing "zero growth" in offshore fishing, according to ministry sources.

The country's total fish and seafood output reached 40.37 million tons this year through November, a year-on-year increase of 4.18 per cent, the ministry's latest statistics indicate.

Harvests from offshore fishing contributed only 12.87 million tons, according to the ministry figures.

To further develop fish farming, the country needs to improve fish disease monitoring and control capacity.

Diseases in China's fish farms have incurred losses of at least 10 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion) a year, Liu said.

Reviewing the work in 2004, Liu said his bureau has stepped up control of chemical residues in aquatic products.

For three consecutive years, nationwide examinations have found that more than 95 per cent of the tested aquatic products meet national standards for chemical residues.

The ministry's latest checks on shrimp in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen markets found no chloramphenicol residues in samples, according to a ministry statement.

Thanks to improved quality control and aggressive marketing efforts, China has seen a record US$6.2 billion worth of aquatic products swim across its border to overseas markets between January and November, a jump of 28.7 per cent from the same period of last year, Liu said.

As a result, the per capita net income of Chinese fishing operations will grow by 5 per cent year-on-year to exceed 5,450 yuan (US$656.6).

Vice-Minister of Agriculture Niu Dun yesterday said China will continue to release fish fry to major rivers and impose full commercial fishing bans on its sea areas and the Yangtze River.

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