The Yangtze River is unable to support the basic life of some 140,000 fishermen with the amount of wild fish caught in the river dropping under 50,000 tons, Time Weekly magazine reported last week.
The fishery resources of the Yangtze River have been exhausted and the river’s ecological system is now on the verge of collapsing.[File photo]
Flowing some 6,300 km eastwards, the Yangtze River is the largest river in China and the third longest in the world. Its total drainage area exceeds 1.8 million square km, accounting for 18.8 percent of China's total area.
However, over the past few years, fishery resources in the river have witnessed a severe decline, with the river’s ecological system currently on the verge of collapsing, according to Zhao Yimin, head of a fishery resource office with the Ministry of Agriculture.
According to statistics, the Yangtze River used to have some 1,100 species of wild aquatic animals, including more than 370 fish species of which 142 were unique to the river and some 20 had been categorized as endangered animals.
In recent years, however, the amount of fish has sharply declined, with particular species, such as the shad and blowfish, not spotted for several years.
This is believed to be the result of excessive fishing, the construction of water conservancy projects, water pollution and unregulated drainage.
Currently, most fish caught in the Yangtze River are only six months-old and some are even less than two months old, leaving them with no chance at any offspring.
In addition, the fish in the river need to spawn in high water, but after the Three Gorges Dam was put into operation, which is the world's largest power station, water conditions, such as water depth and temperature, have changed drastically.
Water pollution is also to blame for the current situation. Statistics show that in 2009, 33.32 billion tons of sewage was discharged into the river, up 21.9 percent compared with 2003.
The unregulated drainage and lack of corresponding remedy measures combine to be another cause of the deteriorating environment.
“We have reaped a lot of benefits from the Yangtze River. Under state plans to double the per-capita income by 2020, we are expected to exploit it even more. It’s almost hopeless for the river to recover,” Zhao said.
To make things even worse, despite the strong opposition from environmental activists over the past five years, the Chongqing municipal government in March 2013 announced its plan to build a hydropower station in Xiaonanhai, a part of a state-level fish conservation area in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River.
According to experts, this will lead to the end of rare fish species in the river because Xiaonanhai is their last natural habitat after the construction of the Gezhou Dam, Three-Gorges Dam and Xiluodu Dam over the past two decades.
In the eyes of Zhao Yimin, the worst is yet to come. “Severe problems will occur in five to eight years,” he warned.