Former Yangtze fishermen find their feet ashore

China Daily | Updated: 2020-07-22 09:23
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Cargo vessels sail along the Yangtze in Yichang, Hubei province, in April, 2020. [Photo by Zheng Jiayu/For China Daily]


Wu Huashan, 42, has never regretted his new life ashore, especially as the former fisherman raises crawfish in his 26 hectares of paddy fields.

In just a few months this year, Wu earned more than 300,000 yuan ($42,860) by selling crawfish-an income he could only dream of during his decades on the water.

Having learned the trade from his parents at an early age, Wu was a skilled fisherman and head of a local fishery association.

"The catches started getting smaller and smaller," he said. "In the past, when I went fishing with my father, we would catch more than 500 kilograms of fish every day. The number has fallen to just a few dozen kg in recent years."

Last year, he bade farewell to his boats and received more than 70,000 yuan in subsidies, plus 12,000 yuan for living expenses and social insurance, paid by the government.

"I was lost and had no idea what I should do," he recalled. With the help of the local government, he finally chose to invest in crawfish, a popular delicacy.

Now he is an expert. "The key to raising crawfish is to keep the water clean. I've had a good harvest this year, and plan to try growing rice in the paddy fields as well," Wu said.

Zhu Yicai, a 67-year-old former fisherman in Yugan county, used to make a living by selling aquatic products from Poyang Lake. Now, he is cashing in on the beautiful lakeside scenery.

Decades of environmental protection have made the lake an important hub for migratory birds, hosting up to 700,000 wintering birds every year. The local government has been taking advantage of this by organizing a range of activities, such as a bird-watching festival, to lure tourists.

The Yangtze, whose drainage basin covers one-fifth of China's land area and is home to about a third of the population, boasts a rich, complex terrain and climate. It also has one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world.

Zhu's local government has been encouraging fishermen to change jobs and take part in a range of tourism-related businesses by offering training in restaurant management and other skills.

When Zhu opened a fish farm in 2012, he realized that many tourists had actually come to watch the birds. In February 2018, believing that birdwatching would be a good business opportunity, he built a 1,800-square-meter farmhouse that can accommodate about 200 diners at each sitting.

"We closed earlier this year due to the COVID-19 epidemic, but we've already made over 300,000 yuan since we reopened in March," he said. "Many tourists come here to relax and unwind. We can host nearly 200 people at the weekend during high season."

Tourism brought the family income of 1 million yuan last year, and Zhu intends to convert the second floor of his home into a farm-stay to host more tourists.

Xinhua - China Daily

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