World Environment Day: China's 10-year Fishing Ban Yields Promising Results in Yangtze River


June 5 marks World Environment Day, an occasion designated by the United Nations to raise awareness and encourage action for the protection of the environment. Xia Ruixue takes a look at China's policies to protect biodiversity in Yangtze, the world's third longest river.

"Are you there yet? The man who's wearing black is now trying to escape and hide in reed marshes. Please drive the boat and get there as soon as possible."

An artificial intelligence video surveillance system, called Tianwang, is now used in the city of Wuhan, in Hubei Province, to stop illegal fishing along the Yangtze River. It's part of efforts by the government to protect the river's biodiversity.

"You're not allowed to fish here. It's illegal. You are breaking the law."

153 high-definition cameras are set up to monitor the waterway along the river banks in Wuhan. Videos will be analyzed by cutting-edge AI algorithm technology. Once the system detects illegal fishing activities, patrolling personnel will be alerted in real time. They can respond quickly and catch the fishermen based on the evidence provided by the system.

WANG WENGAO Captain, Agricultural Law Enforcement Team Wuhan Dept. of Agriculture & Rural Affairs "Thanks to the system, the fishery administration's efforts have become more targeted and efficient. The system can also help monitor the situation of endangered fish species, like finless porpoises."

The Yangtze River is China's longest waterway and has one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world.

To preserve the river and restore its ecosystem, a fishing ban was imposed on January 1, 2021. Nearly all types of fishing are banned in all natural waterways of the Yangtze River and its major tributaries for the next ten years.

LEI LIANGWEI Hubei Dept. of Agriculture & Rural Affairs "Tens of thousands of fishermen have had to find other jobs since the decade-long fishing ban came into effect. So far, 5.5 billion yuan of subsidies have been provided to help them find new jobs."

A lot has been achieved in the past one and a half years.

Finless porpoise, or water panda, is an extremely endangered species in Yangtze River. They can now be seen in Hubei, Jiangsu and Hunan provinces more often than before.

Experts say this shows protection work is producing results.

WANG KEXIONG Researcher, Institute of Hydrobiology Chinese Academy of Sciences "It's hard to say the overall number of the finless porpoises is growing. But at least in some areas in Hubei and Jiangxi provinces, we can find more finless porpoises than before. We can sometimes see the mother fish playing around with their babies. Their habitat is improving and life is getting better for them."

XIA RUIXUE Wuhan "The Chinese people see the Yangtze River as the 'Mother River.' The people who live along the river are glad to see more endangered species being spotted since the 10-year fishing ban was introduced. They are looking forward to seeing a new Yangtze River in 2030. Xia Ruixue, CGTN, Wuhan, Hubei Province."