Decline in biodiversity prompts Yangtze ban . . .
The Chinese government has imposed a ban on fishing along the Yangtze River, a drastic – but some say necessary – move to try to reverse the river’s rapid decline in biodiversity. The ban, announced January 1, will apply to 332 sites and impact 280,000 fishers. Authorities have been dismantling and recycling fishing boats and cancelling fishing licences, but they also have been putting in place programs to help newly out-of-work fishers transition to new employment. Chinese consumers are not expected to be heavily impacted, as the Yangtze’s annual catch has been decreasing steadily over the past decades.
Desperate times, desperate measures . . .
The ban’s timing coincides with the decision in December to declare the Chinese paddlefish, a large freshwater species native to the Yangtze, extinct. Government officials and experts have attributed the decline of this and other species in the 6,300-km-long Yangtze to a combination of factors, including over-fishing, pollution, dam-building, and loss of habitat. In 2003, the Chinese government tried a less radical approach – a three-month, seasonal ban that was later extended to four months. But these measures fell well short of expected results.
A wake-up call . . .
Many biodiversity experts said the situation on the Yangtze should serve as a wake-up call about threats to other large, freshwater fish. Indeed, other governments in the region should monitor the effects of the 10-year ban for lessons on how to protect their own large and endangered freshwater fish, specifically the giant stingray, whose habitat includes rivers in Thailand, Cambodia, Borneo, and northern Australia; and the Mekong giant catfish in mainland Southeast Asia, whose numbers have dropped by more than 90 per cent over the past century. In both cases, the suspected culprits behind declining numbers are very similar to those that caused the Chinese paddlefish’s extinction.
- National Geographic: The Chinese paddlefish, one of the world’s largest fish, has gone extinct
- South China Morning Post: China imposes 10-year fishing ban for Yangze River to protect marine biodiversity
- SUP China: China bans fishing on the Yangze River for 10 years