Yangtze River estuary sees improving ecology

(Xinhua) 10:38, November 20, 2022

NANJING, Nov. 19 (Xinhua) -- Zhang Zhiping, 59, has finally seen clear water and jumping fish in the river again, a scene that had been common in his childhood but disappeared in the 1980s.

"The finless porpoises are back. And when the river gate opened, I could see the fish jumping!" said Zhang, a resident of Nantong City, east China's Jiangsu Province.

Living near the Kuzigang River, which runs to the Yangtze River, in Chongchuan District, Zhang is a witness to the improved environment and ecology, which was accelerated by a series of policies on the protection of the river, especially in the past decade.

He recalled that in the 1980s and 1990s, factories along the Yangtze River increased, bringing about much pollution. Oil and garbage floated in the river, and with overfishing, there were fewer fish.

In recent years, the Yangtze River has become better protected, more factories along the coast have been closed, and fishermen have returned to the land for other businesses. Zhang, who fished almost throughout his lifetime, stopped in 2018.

"Although I can no longer fish, I am happy to see such changes," Zhang said.

Now, Zhang goes to the river banks every two or three days and volunteers as an inspector for river protection. Finding improper behavior or environmental damage, he will stop it or report it to the relevant authorities.

Yuantuojiao Tourist Resort of Nantong, located in the estuary of the Yangtze River, also sees a dramatic change. Xu Nannan, a staff member with the resort, said it used to be a chaotic fishing port crowded with illegal ferries. Many fishermen from other cities lived on boats, and illegal behaviors such as heavy fishing were often reported.

Since 2017, the resort has conducted a radical renovation, cleaning up 20,000 square meters of illegal construction, more than 300 abandoned ferries, and 12 unlawful docks, and taking advantage of social funds to build a tourist and leisure block.

"The environment has become beautiful. The number of tourists in the resort has surged in recent years, reaching more than 2 million. The income obtained by residents through opening homestays and farmhouses far exceeds that from farming and fishing," Xu said.

According to data from the Nantong ecology and environment bureau, Nantong has closed two chemical parks along the Yangtze River and more than 400 chemical enterprises in recent years.

Yang Jian, a researcher at the Freshwater Fisheries Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences, said the monitoring of the Yangtze River estuary and its adjacent waters showed the Yangtze long-tailed anchovy resources are continuously recovering. Such flagship migratory species in the Yangtze even appeared in Dongting Lake and other waters where the fish had not been found for more than a decade.

On Jan. 1, 2021, a 10-year fishing ban took effect in pivotal waters of the Yangtze, after 332 conservation areas along the river enforced the fishing ban a year ago, to help the river recover from dwindling aquatic resources and degrading biodiversity.

The fishing ban lays the foundation for the sustainable recovery of estuarine migratory species in rivers and seas. The green development of coastal areas along the Yangtze River estuary, especially in water pollution prevention and shoreline regulation, has improved the environment of the habitat, said Zhong Xiaming, Party secretary of the Jiangsu Marine Fisheries Research Institute.

(Web editor: Cai Hairuo, Sheng Chuyi)


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