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Fisherman suffer from drought in E China

(Xinhua)

09:42, September 21, 2011

NANCHANG, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- Dawn had yet to arrive by the time Xiong Quanming rose to prepare for a day of fishing on Poyang Lake in east China's Jiangxi Province. Xiong had already spent several days resting, but decided to strike out in the hopes of catching a few fish.

Unfortunately, many of the fishermen living near Poyang Lake have had little choice but to rest in recent times, as a lingering drought has plagued the country's largest freshwater lake for about five months.

"The thing I worry about most is the fact that the meager income I make from fishing is barely enough to help me pay for fuel for my boat," Xiong sighed.

"However, I couldn't bear to remain idle at home day after day, so I decided to try my luck today," he said.

Poyang Lake contracted to just 974 square km in size this year, while previous annual averages have ranged around 2,890 square km, according to Tan Guoliang, head of the provincial hydrographic bureau. The lingering drought has dried up the lake and reduced fish populations, which has had a negative effect on the incomes of local fishermen.

Xiong started fishing at 6 a.m.; however, he ended up coming back to shore just five hours later, much earlier than usual. In the past, he would often have breakfast and lunch on his boat, not returning home until 2 p.m.

"My grandson felt uncomfortable because of the high temperatures on the boat and was crying to go home all day. We spent the whole morning on the lake, but only got a few fish," said Xiong.

Xiong's son and daughter-in-law left their hometown for east China's Zhejiang Province to make a living as migrant workers, since fishing in their hometown could not allow them to make enough money to support their family.

Just as Xiong was tying up his boat, 60-year-old fishmonger Wan Changling came up to Xiong. Wan has been working in the fishing industry for 40 years.

"We usually go non-stop between the dock and the market, going back and forth at least a dozen times in one day. But this year, business has been tough due to the drought," said Wan.

Previous years saw local fishermen making average annual incomes of 50,000 to 60,000 yuan (about 7,825 to 9,390 U.S. dollars). However, this year's average income is expected to be no more than 20,000 yuan, Wan said.

"I hope I can make ends meet. I haven't been expecting to make much money since the drought hit," Wan said.

The fish Xiong caught in the morning netted him a grand total of 52 yuan. "It's really not worth it. I'd rather stay home tomorrow," he said.

Guo Yuzhi, another local fisherman, confessed that he had an even worse experience.

"I caught only five kilograms of carp in six hours. The income from those fish can hardly pay for my diesel fuel," said Guo.

The local government has stepped in, adopting a series of subsidy policies to aid local fishermen who have been impacted by the drought.

"Every fisherman can apply for a 300-yuan living allowance. For each household, a 1,000-yuan subsidy can be obtained for boat repairs, as well as a 7,000-yuan subsidy for diesel fuel," said Guo.

"The subsidies have made life a little easier," he said.

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