III. The Protection and Preservation of the Marine Environment

China attaches great importance to the protection of the marine environment. Organs and laws aimed at marine environmental protection have been gradually established, and the people's consciousness of the importance of protecting the marine environment and abiding by the laws have been further strengthened, both of which have speeded up the work of marine environmental protection. As a result, the momentum of serious marine pollution has been slowed; the environmental quality of some of the country's sea areas has been improved; and most offshore waters are of good quality, despite the drastic increase in the amounts of pollutants brought about by the booming economy of the coastal areas.

In 1982 the Marine Environmental Protection Law of the People's Republic of China, a basic law of the country to protect the marine environment, was approved by the NPC Standing Committee to prevent damage to the marine environment resulting from coastal construction projects, offshore oil exploration and exploitation, navigation of ships, wastes dumping, and discharge of land-sourced pollutants. Later, several concrete regulations were issued by the Chinese government, such as the Regulations of the People's Republic of China on the Prevention and Control of Marine Pollution Caused by Ships, Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Environmental Protection and Control Pertaining to Offshore Oil Exploration and Exploitation, Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Control of the Marine Dumping of Wastes, Regulations of the People's Republic of China on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution from Shipbreaking, Regulations of the People's Republic of China on the Prevention and Control of Pollution Damage to the Marine Environment from Land-Sourced Pollutants, and Regulations of the People's Republic of China on the Prevention and Control of Pollution Damage to the Marine Environment from Coastal Construction Projects. In addition, a dozen rules and standards were enacted concerning marine environmental protection by government departments. All of these laws, regulations and rules have formed a legal framework for marine environmental protection. Besides, programs and plans for marine environmental protection, professional plans for the protection of wetlands and biological diversity, an overall marine monitoring network and a nearshore environmental monitoring network have also been put in place by related state organizations.

In recent years, an administration system for marine environmental protection has been gradually set up: State environmental protection departments are in charge of marine environmental protection for the whole country; state marine administrations are responsible for the organization of survey, monitoring and surveillance of the marine environment, the conduct of scientific research and the prevention of pollution damage to the marine environment resulting from offshore oil exploration and exploitation and the dumping of wastes at sea; state harbor administrations are responsible for the supervision, investigation and disposal of pollutant discharge by ships, the surveillance of harbor waters and the prevention of pollution damage to the marine environment caused by vessels; state fishing port administrations are responsible for the supervision of pollutant discharge by fishing boats and the surveillance of fishing grounds; environmental protection organs of the armed forces are responsible for the supervision of pollutant discharge by military vessels and surveillance of naval port waters; and environmental protection organs of the local people's governments in coastal areas are responsible for the environmental protection work of preventing pollution damage resulting from coastal construction projects and land-sourced pollutants. This coordinated network plays an important role in the implementation of the related laws and the efficient protection of the marine environment.

China carries out the policy of putting prevention first and combining prevention with control in managing existing marine pollution. While endeavoring to make a success in the protection of marine biological resources and the prevention and control of marine pollution, China makes the prevention and control of land-sourced pollution the focal point of its marine environmental protection work. A series of regulations have been drawn up to check land-sourced pollutant emission, and enhance the monitoring, surveillance and control of the main pollutant-emission outlets. Large and medium-sized cities have paid constant attention to readjusting the distribution of industries, improving technical transformation, and recovering waste gas, waste water and industrial residue (the "three wastes") for multipurpose use. Enterprises creating serious pollution are required to take effective measures to control it within a definite period of time; otherwise they have to close down, suspend operations, merge with other plants, change their products or move to other places. Besides, a number of sewage treatment plants have been built to control new pollution sources and reduce the amount of land-sourced pollutants dumped into the sea. To prevent marine pollution resulting from ship and port discharge, in addition to the formulation of the Crash Program to Combat Ships' Oil Pollution, oil-water separators have been installed aboard ships of all types in accordance with relevant stipulations, and oil-polluted water treatment equipment, including emergency treatment equipment, has been installed at all sea ports. This equipment can help dispose of 3.7 million tons of oil-polluted water from vessels and recover 42,000 tons of waste oil a year. Similarly, to prevent marine environment pollution resulting from offshore oil exploitation, besides the formulation by offshore oilfields of the Crash Program to Combat Oil Spills During Offshore Oil Exploration and Exploitation, oil-polluted water treatment equipment has been installed on all drilling platforms, engine-room oil-water separators have also been installed aboard all drilling ships, and oil barriers, chemical de-oiling agents and spill recovery ships provided in all China's offshore oilfields.

As one of the contracting parties to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matters signed in 1972 in London, China attaches great importance to the fulfillment of the provisions under the convention and is steadily improving its control of the dumping of wastes into the sea. So far, China has designated 34 dumping areas for dredged materials of the third category and four areas for midair oil discharge. It has issued about 2,000 dumping permits and tightened up the monitoring of the environmental quality of dumping areas. Besides, it has strictly prohibited the disposal of any radioactive substance and incineration of toxic waste at sea, and plans to gradually stop the dumping of industrial waste into the sea.

To protect the ecological environment of fishing grounds, the Water Quality Standards of Fishing Grounds have been drawn up by the Chinese government and the Regulations on the Supervision and Control of the Environmental Sanitation of Shellfish-Raising Areas and other regulations have been drawn up by departments concerned. In addition, a sequence of measures have been taken to further strengthen the eco-environmental protection of spawning grounds of saltwater fish and shrimps, feeding grounds, wintering grounds, migration channels and aquatic farms. A multilevel setup for the protection of the fisheries environment has been established by the state and coastal region authorities, including 15 monitoring stations at and above the provincial level around the country and a number of marine life protected areas in major fishing grounds. In 1995 the department concerned worked out the Procedures for the Administration of Marine Reserves, based on the guiding principle of ``conservation first, appropriate exploitation and sustainable development,'' and divided each marine nature reserve into core, buffer and experimental zones, in order to improve the building and management of the marine nature reserves. At present 59 marine protected areas, covering gulfs, islands, estuaries, coasts, coral reefs, mangrove swamps, coastal lagoons, marine natural history sites, seaweed beds and wetlands, have been built, covering a total area of 12,900 sq km.

China is one of the countries which are most vulnerable to marine calamities. The economic losses suffered by the coastal areas from storms, tidal waves, ice floes, seaquakes, coastal erosion, typhoons, fog and red tides account for about 10 percent of the total of all natural disasters afflicting China. After making unremitting efforts for decades, China has installed a basic marine environment and disaster observation network and forecast-alarm system, covering both offshore areas and distant waters, with the cooperation of several departments. This network engages in analysis, forecast and grading of major marine calamities, and runs maritime rescue centers and coastal emergency stations. As a result, a marine disaster alleviation framework has been put in place.

The rapid economic growth and steady population increase in the coastal areas, coupled with the constant expansion of marine exploitation, mean that China continues to face problems of marine environmental protection and disaster alleviation. To cope with this situation, China has adopted the Ninth Five-Year Plan (1996-2000) and Long-Term Program to the Year 2010 for National Marine Environmental Protection, which further advances the three major policies of ``putting prevention first, combining prevention with control,'' ``making the causer of pollution responsible for treating it'' and ``improving the control of the environment.'' The following are the principal measures China will take to protect the marine environment:

--Control of pollution sources will be enhanced by setting quality standards for the water in all parts of rivers which flow into the sea, establishing a system to control the total amount of pollutant discharge into the key sea areas, identifying the marine discharge indices of the main pollutants, and strictly restricting discharge above the initial amount;

--The investigation, monitoring and control of marine pollution will be stepped up by improving the pollution monitoring network, strengthening surveillance by satellites, ships and offshore monitoring stations, and perfecting the law enforcement system;

--Fees will gradually be levied for pollutant discharge, and all walks of life will be encouraged to develop marine environmental protection technologies and industries;

--The construction of the system of marine monitoring and disaster forecasting and alarm will be stepped up, complete with an observation network, a data collection and communication network, a forecast-alarm and service network and a data quality control system.