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Thursday, July 16, 2020, 13:03
China strives to aid fishermen after river ban
Thursday, July 16, 2020, 13:03 By WANG XIAOYU

Ex-fisherman Zhu Changhong and his wife clean floating trash as they patrol along the Yangtze River in East China's Anhui province, on Jan 7, 2020. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

China is ramping up efforts to identify fishermen who give up their boats and nets in compliance with a fishing ban along the Yangtze River, and is devising targeted plans to assist them in relocating and finding new jobs.

The ban will be expanded to all natural waterways and major tributaries of the river, as well as large lakes connected to it no later than Jan 1, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs

To reverse the deteriorating ecosystem and biodiversity of the Yangtze River-whose bountiful aquatic resources have been severely depleted due to intense human activities-China has imposed a 10-year fishing moratorium in 332 conservation areas along the river since the beginning of this year.

The ban will be expanded to all natural waterways and major tributaries of the river, as well as large lakes connected to it no later than Jan 1, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

To achieve the goal, authorities must make sure all fishermen are redeployed to other sectors by the end of this year, Vice-Minister Yu Kangzhen said during a news conference held by the State Council Information Office on Wednesday.

"The scale of the ban is unprecedented as it affects more than 100,000 fishing boats and nearly 300,000 fishermen," he said. "So far, close to 80,000 boats and 100,000 fishermen have been withdrawn, and some regions, including Shanghai municipality and Jiangxi and Yunnan provinces, have finished their tasks in advance."

Yu said uneven preparedness for a full ban along the river has added pressure to the goal, and one major issue is inaccurate and incomplete information on fishermen.

"An inspection conducted this March shows that some areas have failed to set up standard files, precisely detect affected fishermen or release relevant information to the public adequately. If these basics are murky, it will be hard to continue with subsequent work," he said.

To solve the issue, local authorities are now required to close loopholes and confirm relevant information, including fishermen's family backgrounds and employment preferences, by visiting each household, according to Yu.

"The update of the database will be completed by the end of this month. Starting on Aug 1, the system will be locked and used as a reference for rolling out future policies in terms of allocating compensation and social security plans, among other assistance programs," he said.

On July 8, the State Council released a notice that urges intensified efforts to enforce the fishing ban. The document highlights the significance of ensuring the livelihoods of former fishermen in its river basin.

Song Xin, deputy director of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security's employment promotion department, said during the news conference that redeployment of former fishermen is difficult as most of them are not young and have few other skills. The COVID-19 epidemic also worsens their prospects.

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The ministry will thus put forward a slew of employment options based on their specialties and aspirations, he said.

Ex-fisherman Zheng Laigen works at his fishing farm in Maanshan, East China's Anhui province, on Jan 8, 2020. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

"Former fishermen dexterous in trawling will be enlisted to help develop related industries such as rice-fish farming, aquatic products processing and leisure fishing," he said.

"Those who are willing to switch to new jobs will be introduced to work in nearby enterprises, factories or agricultural businesses. Vocational training and guidance will also be held on a large scale."

Entrepreneurship is also encouraged. Incubator bases related to the fishery industry will be supported, and former fishermen who launch startups that operate for longer than a set period will be rewarded with a one-time subsidy, he added.

For the older and long-unemployed group, local governments should propose one-on-one assistance plans and guide them to take part in patrol work.

Yu, the vice-minister, added that many fishermen depending on the Yangtze River have been living in destitute conditions for a long time due to dwindling fish stocks.

"Freshwater fish products from the Yangtze River used to account for as much as 60 percent of the nationwide total, but nowadays the river only supplies less than 100,000 metric tons of the 63 million tons produced each year across the country," he said.

READ MORE: Courts fight to protect Yangtze River Basin

"Therefore, forbidding fishing in its river basin is not only meant to revive the battered ecosystem, but also to break the vicious cycle and achieve long-term benefits for fishermen," he said.

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