Former Yangtze fishermen find their feet ashore

China Daily | Updated: 2020-07-22 09:23
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A worker breaks up an abandoned fishing boat in Jiangsu province in May, 2020. [Photo by Meng Delong/For China Daily]

Dwindling resources

More than 300 traditional fishing villages with over 100,000 residents are located in the areas around Poyang Lake, China's largest freshwater body, in the eastern province of Jiangxi, where the ban has been introduced. Many fishermen are embracing new lives ashore.

Shu Yin'an, 53, the third generation of a fishing family, works as a ranger in a Yangtze finless porpoise protection team in Hukou county, Jiangxi.

The finless porpoise, a species endemic to China, is an important indicator of the river's environmental health.

Known for its mischievous "smile", the porpoise is said to have a level of intelligence comparable to that of a gorilla. However, the animal requires an abundant food supply to survive. In recent years, overfishing has contributed to a decline in its numbers.

"I grew up on Poyang Lake and finless porpoises used to be common, but they have rarely been spotted in recent years," said Shu, who decided to wave goodbye to his fishing boat and nets and begin a new life in 2017.

In June of that year, he went back onto the water to start a new career, helping to protect the finless porpoise.

Zhang Chuanguo, Shu's colleague, intended that his two sons should inherit his fishing boats after he retired, but the 65-year-old was frustrated to find that hauls in the once fish-rich lake have dwindled dramatically.

"We shouldn't leave a devastated river for future generations. I'm proud to be a protector of the finless porpoise," he said.

"We are fighting to secure a better life for the people living around Poyang Lake and in the Yangtze River Basin."

Such concerns were responsible for the fishing moratorium. The ban came after decades of human activity-water pollution, overfishing, sand excavation and quarrying-caused serious environmental damage in the river basin.

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