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  • Citizens release fry voluntarily into the Yangtze River in Nanjing, China, Nov. 15, 2019.

    Citizens release fry voluntarily into the Yangtze River in Nanjing, China, Nov. 15, 2019. | Photo: Xinhua

Published 24 December 2020
Opinion

The Asian longest river boasts one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world. However, the protection situation of some rare and unique aquatic species is grim.

China began a 10-year fishing moratorium in 332 conservation areas in the Yangtze River basin, which will expand to all the natural waterways of the river and its major tributaries from no later than Jan. 1, 2021. 

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"The biodiversity is recovering in the Yangtze. The species number has so far increased to 79 in the Jiangsu section from 48 at the beginning of 2017," said Zhang Jianjun, the Jiangsu Province's Agriculture Department Deputy Director.

In recent years, the annual catch from the Yangtze has fallen to less than 100,000 tonnes from more than 420,000 tonnes in the 1950s.

According to the Agriculture Ministry, 231,000 fishermen on 111,000 boats have to date relinquished their nets in ten provincial regions. Meanwhile, an annual number of over 5 billion captive-bred fish fries have been released into the river.

As the fishing ban has sounded the horn, the regions along the river have also launched a campaign to save rare and endangered species, including the Chinese sturgeon and the finless porpoise.

This porpoise has lived in the middle and lower main streams of the river for 25 million years. However, the river mammal is teetering on the brink of extinction. Its population is only around 1,000 in the main waterway of the Yangtze.

Anhui, Jiangsu, and other provinces along the river have established finless porpoise protection teams. Emergency rescue and patrol mechanisms will also improve to reduce unnatural deaths of the animal. Thanks to the joint efforts, the creature in the Yangtze has seen a significant increase.

"The number of the species in the Nanjing section has jumped to 50 from less than 30," said Yang Guang, head of the Nanjing conservation association.

In addition, local governments have taken measures, including eliminating "black and odorous" water bodies and closing illegal sewage outlets along the river, to reduce water pollution. Many ex-fishermen are also making efforts to create a clean home for aquatic life.

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