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New safety net announced for wild aquatic species
( 2003-06-26 09:18) (China Daily)

China has slapped a ban on catching, consuming and trading endangered, wild aquatic species, the Ministry of Agriculture said yesterday in Beijing.

"Except for scientific research, any illegal hunting, killing and marketing of rare and endangered wild aquatic fauna will be strictly prohibited," said Ma Weijun, an official with the ministry's Fisheries Bureau.

The ministry, along with the public security, customs and commerce departments, will also review the operations of firms that have approval to raise, exhibit, process and use wild aquatic species and their by-products.

Those engaged in the trade without government approval will be severely penalized, Ma said.

Despite the country's persistent efforts to curb the illegal capture and killing of wild aquatic fauna, Chinese sturgeon, giant salamanders and other rare species have been increasingly targetted, pushing them to the brink of extinction, experts said.

The trade in such species is largely driven by consumers' appetite for exotic fare, Ma said.

Nearly 50 per cent of Chinese restaurants and 42 per cent of produce markets have used or marketed aquatic wild animals, the latest survey from the Ministry of Agriculture indicates.

However, people in China are eating less wildlife in the wake of SARS, the virus which some researchers believe was initially transmitted to people from the animals they ate.

The Ministry of Agriculture's ban on the trade in wild aquatic fauna takes advantage of the changed mood and eating habits of consumers, analysts said.

The nation's top legislative body will also play a role in enforcing the 15-year-old Wildlife Protection Law early next month. Legislators will check on progress in cleaning up markets where banned species are on sale, sources from the National People's Congress said.

Environmentalist Liang Congjie, who founded the non-governmental Friends of Nature, suggested that legislators revise the country's wildlife conservation law as soon as possible.

"It should protect not only rare and endangered wild animals. All other wild fauna should also be spared from commercial capture or use," he said.

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