A SEVERE decline in stocks has nearly paralyzed the fishing industry in east
China, leaving many boats anchored at harbor during what should be the prime
Dwindling stocks due to overfishing, pollution and lower sea water temperatures have brought about hard times for fishermen, who this year have reported the worst catch ever around the Bohai Sea.
In ports across Shandong Province, a major seafood production base in eastern China, boats currently lying at anchor, in what should be a busy time.
Production has been halted for the majority of bigger fishing vessels and about 70 to 80 percent of smaller vessels, according to the Shandong Marine Fishing and Production Management Station.
Li Xiaowei, a fisherman in Yantai, is among the few who have persisted, but admits that his trips have mostly ended in disappointment. "There are only a few mantis shrimp and some nets are empty," Yu said.
Oceanologists say the low output is the result of excessive fishing and pollution.
"China has seen a serious deterioration in offshore fishery resources, and the stocks of many kinds of fish are below harvestable levels," said Zhang Yu, an official from Yantai's ocean and fishery bureau.
Meanwhile, the fishery industry is also being hit by rising diesel costs, as the price of diesel has climbed from 6,400 yuan (US$1,016) per tonne in 2010 to 8,700 yuan this year.
Yu Shuiqiang, who operates two fishing vessels in Weihai, says surging fuel costs can not be offset by meager hauls.
"Labor at sea only brings more losses, and staying idle at home at least saves us the cost of diesel," Yu says.
The fishery standstill has impacted on the local economy, with many businesses engaged in seafood processing, storage and shipping. Many factories have been forced to close due to scarce orders.
Consumers have also felt the pinch caused by this year's poor harvest, as most seafood products have seen a 50-percent price hike in Shandong, which supplies seafood to many parts of the country.
China has implemented stricter fishing bans and established more marine conservation areas in a bid to revive the fishery industry in the Bohai Sea.
But experts say the critical task is to encourage out-of-work fishermen to work ashore and let the ecosystem recovers.