Officials alarmed at Guangdong's vanishing fish

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 July, 2007, 12:00am

Senior Guangdong fisheries officials have warned that the excessive exploitation of the province's maritime resources could lead to disaster, according to mainland media reports.

Guangdong Provincial Oceanic and Fishery Administration director Li Zhujiang told provincial consultative conference delegates on Monday that Guangdong had taken too much from the ocean and had almost turned the Pearl River estuary into a marine desert, the Information Times reported yesterday.

Mr Li said Guangdong had reclaimed about 10,000 hectares from the sea in 63 projects and was working on 50 more projects that would create 10,000 more hectares of reclaimed land.

He said reclamation projects were reasonable in moderation, but since Guangdong still had no system to guard against the extravagant use of marine resources, 'a disaster could occur as people changed the ocean's nature', the report said.

Mr Li said there was a trend in Guangdong towards more reclamation projects to help the province overcome its land shortage and bolster its gross domestic product.

The Ministry of Finance asked all coastal provinces a decade ago to set up a special fund for ocean protection, but Guangdong had done nothing, Mr Li said. The provincial government had also not signed any contracts with local governments to make them responsible for any damage to the environment.

He said that although Guangdong's coastline was the mainland's longest and its ocean area the biggest, it had no law to protect them.

Li Lixin , director of the State Oceanic Administration's southern branch, told conference delegates that the Pearl River estuary had more than 200 species of fish in the 1970s, but only about 50 species remained and that the situation might worsen.

An oceanic expert with the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology said 'disaster' might be too harsh to describe the situation, but he agreed that excessive reclamation of land had destroyed the coastal environment.

Reclamation projects caused many kinds of marine life to lose their natural habitats, he said.

But he attributed the extinction of the fish species to excessive fishing and pollution.

'I do not think land pollution is the only reason,' he said. 'I think the excessive fishing problem will not worsen because the government has established annual fishing seasons.'