About 12,000 fishermen will abandon their fishing boats to make a living on land in south China's Hainan Province as a result of two key agreements on Beibu Gulf demarcation and fishery cooperation between China and neighboring Vietnam.
The Beibu Gulf Demarcation Agreement and the Beibu Gulf Fishery Cooperation Agreement, which were signed by the presidents of China and Vietnam in December 2000, took effect on June 30.
The demarcation agreement settles the long-disputed marine borders between China and Vietnam, but is creating turmoil in the lives of the local fisher folk.
A major marine province, Hainan's fisheries industry may be seriously hurt by the new agreements. Until now, more than 70 percent of the fishing production of the island has come from Beibu, said Huang Liangsheng, a senior official with the Hainan Marine and Fishery Department.
Under the new agreements, fishermen will be confined to a specific area within Beibu Gulf. More than 1,000 fishing boats will have to leave the traditional fishing ground.
Beibu Gulf, located in the northwest of the South China Sea and known in Vietnam as the Gulf of Tonkin, provides a good environment for the breeding and fishing of a number of aquatic species.
"At first, it is hard for us fishermen to get accustomed to the difficulties arising from the demarcation," said Chen Dawu, whose family has a 50-ton fishing boat. "But I believe in the care and support of the government. We are not worried."
"After the agreement goes into effect, the number of fishing boats entering the Beibu Gulf will be controlled," he noted. "From the long-term perspective, this will be good for the protection of fishing resources in the region as well as for the sustainable development of the fishery industry."
Under the fisheries cooperation agreement, China and Vietnam will set up a common fishery zone, a transitional area and buffer areas for small fishing boats.
To minimize the negative impact of relocation, the Hainan provincial government is helping to resettle fishermen who lost their fishing areas, said Huang Liangsheng.
He said that most of the 1,000-plus fishing boats that will have to move to waters to the east and south Hainan Island, the northern part of South China Sea or fishing grounds around the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands are medium and larger vessels.
Another possibility is to train fishermen in industry-related areas such as aquatic breeding, processing marine products, distribution and transportation, as well as in non-fishery industries, Huang said.
Other new programs will be developed to provide job opportunities.
By using funds allocated by the ministries of finance and agriculture, Hainan Province established 11 marine products breeding and processing projects last year, Huang said.
Under a special taxation program, fishing boats moving from Beibu to the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha areas would be free of agricultural specialty taxation and protection fees for marine resources proliferation.
(China Daily July 7, 2004)