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Fisherman eyes new life ashore after Yangtze ban

China Daily | Updated: 2021-03-02 09:47
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NANJING - This year's Spring Festival was the first time 75-year-old fisherman Zhou Yalin celebrated the holiday ashore after bidding farewell to his fishing career on the Yangtze River, China's longest waterway, last year.


After enjoying dinner with his family, Zhou watched the Spring Festival Gala on TV and stayed up all night on Chinese Lunar New Year's Eve for the first time in his life.


"I used to catch fish on the river on New Year's Eve, for there would be a surge in demand for aquatic products during Spring Festival," recalled Zhou, who like most fishermen believed that a good New Year's Eve catch would bring about a bountiful harvest in the new year.


Zhou's family has been engaged in the fishing business for four generations in a small village in the city of Taizhou, Jiangsu province.


Born on a fishing boat, he took it for granted that he would make a living by fishing, just as his ancestors did.


"I was destined to be a fisherman, as it's almost like my family inheritance," Zhou said, who started his fishing career at the age of 17.


"Ya", the second character in Zhou Yalin's name, means "keeping the boat steady" in the local dialect. In his village, there are 44 people whose names include "ya".


However, even the calmest seas will eventually be beset by waves.


For many years, Zhou worked elbow to elbow with five family members on a cramped fishing vessel, and he even permanently disfigured his little finger due to the grind.


Last year, his family had a chance to embrace a new life.


On Jan 1, a 10-year fishing ban took effect in pivotal waters of the Yangtze to help the river recover from dwindling aquatic resources and falling biodiversity.


According to previous estimates, the full-scale ban is likely to affect more than 113,000 fishing boats and nearly 280,000 fishermen in 10 provincial regions along the river.


Ending his family's long connection with the fishing trade once and for all, Zhou handed in all his fishing equipment to the local government to be destroyed, including his boats, fishing nets and hooks, and received 230,000 yuan ($35,600) in compensation.


Zhou's decision won support from his family.


"I witnessed the rapid decline of fishery resources in the Yangtze, and as a fisherman, I felt deeply ashamed," said his son-in-law Yin Qiqiao, who once followed Zhou to fish in the Yangtze but now works as a patrolman along the river.


Yin never expected to become a protector of the river. He now keeps a look out for poaching and clears waste on the riverbanks.


Zhou's family, like many others, moved ashore into a new two-story house last year without spending a penny.


At the end of last year, the big family welcomed their newest member. "She doesn't have a name yet, but 'ya' is no longer an option," he said.



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