[Editor’s note:] since the establishment of the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF) Fish Protection Center (Oppose Electro Fishing Union, OEFU) in 2017, it has received wide attention from the society. The volunteers’ hard work over the years, regardless of reward, has gradually highlighted the strength of this non-governmental team and has received the attention and recognition of government departments. These unpaid volunteers, who even have to pay for their own pockets, are protecting the river day and night without fear of danger because of various stories with aquatic creatures.
They have received support from the broad masses and the attention of major media. In July 2020, CCTV Finance Channel conducted an in-depth interview with the CBCGDF Fish Protection Center. The following is a detailed report from CCTV.
(CCTV) The Yangtze River is an important gene bank of freshwater aquatic organisms in our country, and the raging illegal electric fishing activities have brought serious damage to the ecology of the Yangtze River. At present, both the central and local governments continue to increase the enforcement of illegal fishing in the Yangtze River Basin. At the same time, some civil forces have also made contributions to the protection of the Yangtze River. In 2017, volunteers from different places spontaneously formed a national Oppose Electro Fishing Union, mainly to report illegal fishermen who damage the ecology of the Yangtze River. So far, an environmental protection force from the private sector has participated in the ecological protection of the Yangtze River.
From upstream to downstream areas, nearly 20,000 volunteers in the Yangtze River Basin have joined the ranks of anti-electric fishing. Chen Xijian, who is 58 years old, is in charge of the Nanchang section of the Gan River. He said that the scene of swimming with fish in the river was gone forever, and after seeing electric fishing scenes several times, his hearted ached greatly.
Chen Xijian, a volunteer from China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF) Fish Protection Center (OEFU) Nanchang, Jiangxi: I saw a very tragic scene. Four vessels, including two big vessels and two small vessels, pulled each other with big cables. After the two big boats passed, the whole river was covered with white and all the small fishes came up. We just watched as these white fish drifted down with the water of the Gan River, and the surrounding areas of the riverbank were all dead fish.
Report actively! Volunteers provide a lot of clues for law enforcement
The CBCGDF Fish Protection Center (OEFU) took the lead in launching private actions to protect the ecology of the Yangtze River. It not only drove a large number of volunteers to join it, but also in the long-term reporting of illegal fishing behaviors such as electric fishing and poisoned fishing, the importance of the volunteer alliance has gradually increased and obtained strong support from the law enforcement depatment.
The Gan River in Jiangxi Province is an important tributary of the Yangtze River Basin. In May 2020, in accordance with the local regulations of Nanchang City, Jiangxi Province, the Gan River officially entered a comprehensive fishing ban area. During this period, Chen Xijian drove with his mates almost every night to patrol the Gan River, more than ten kilometers away. He told reporters that even though the country requires repeatedly to ban fishing, there are still a few people committing crimes. These riverside boats seem to have docked. In fact, some fishermen who do not abide by the law still have a fluke mentality. Once law enforcement is loosened, they will wait for an opportunity to dispatch.
Volunteers will report every time illegal fishing is discovered. Due to long-term reports, from fishery administration to public security reports, Chen Xijian remembered clearly. But the initial report did not go smoothly.
Chen Xijian, a volunteer from the CBCGDF Fish Protection Center (OEFU): My phone is locked, and they basically don’t answer my calls.
Chen Xijian and some volunteers tried to communicate with the competent departments time and time again, but in the past, various departments always shirk each other. So, he took a lot of evidence to the Water Branch of Nanchang Public Security Bureau. In response to information provided by volunteers, the Water Branch of Nanchang Public Security Bureau carried out reconnaissance operations in key areas of the river. As soon as the three illegal fishermen entered the Gan River, the infrared camera monitoring equipment of the Public Security Bureau’s command center locked them, and eventually arrested these criminal suspects.
Sun Jun, a policeman from the Criminal Investigation Brigade of the Water Branch of the Nanchang Public Security Bureau: The branch mobilized police and rushed to the scene to investigate and deal with the suspect at the scene. A fishing boat and several pieces of fishing gear were seized on the spot. It is unlikely to go illegal fishing during the day. Generally, they wait until the evening, mainly in the latter half of the night, from about 2:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m., and sell quickly after landing.
According to the Nanchang Municipal Public Security Bureau’s Water Branch, after the Yangtze River implemented a fishing ban, the anti-electric fishing volunteers played a big role in the police and civilian joint operations. The police and volunteers have now established a “Police-civilian joint fishing ban WeChat group”. Volunteers can directly send clues or short videos to the social media contact group, so that the public security and fishery authorities can carry out precise strikes more quickly. Through continuous inspections, appeals, and assistance in combating illegal fishing, the volunteers have also received strong support from all walks of life.
The rampant electric fishing phenomenon, the transformation of volunteers “from fishing to fish protection”
Nearly 20,000 volunteers in the Yangtze River Basin have joined the ranks of anti-electric fishing, most of whom are fishing enthusiasts. They originally loved calmness and quietness, but they were deeply shocked because they had witnessed too many cruel electric fishing behaviors. In the course of the anti-electric fishing, they also began to continuously develop various new skills to cope with the various situations encountered.
Zhu Kai, the president of the Luya Fishing Club in Zigong City, Sichuan Province, has been paying attention to illegal fishing for a long time and has reported many times. However, the local electric fishing behavior is still banned repeatedly. Therefore, he determined to work with his fishing mates. The Oppose Electro Fishing Union (OEFU) was established, and the combat with electric fishing has been for three years.
In the long-term reports, they often encounter situations where illegal fishermen absolutely refuse to dissuade or even violently resist. For this reason, Zhu Kai and his fishing mates formed a professional anti-electric fishing volunteer team.
Anti-electric fishing volunteers not only need to understand relevant legal knowledge, but also have good survivability in the wild and on water. In the long-term anti-electric fishing operation, in order to cooperate with the fishery authorities in catching illegal electric fishers, the volunteers learned to drive assault vessels, use drones, night vision devices and other equipment, and are also familiar with the waterways of the Yangtze River and various tributaries.
In the work of anti-electric fishing, Zhu Kai discovered that illegal fishing activities such as electric fishing are a fatal blow to the rare fish resources of the Yangtze River. This wild Chinese high fin banded shark is rarely seen in the Yangtze River. After the fisherman caught it, it was sold for 300 yuan per jin, and it was promptly rescued by volunteers and released to nature. In the past few years, Zhu Kai and his mates have collected information and found that the situation of some precious little fish is more critical. Because they are expensive, ranging from 200 to 300 yuan per jin, the high profits have driven illegal fishing to be repeatedly prohibited. According to “Zigong City Records”, the types of local fish have been reduced by three quarters in more than 70 years.
Zhu Kai, the head of the OEFU volunteers: I checked the Zigong Records in 1945. There were 127 local fish species at that time, including Ade sturgeon, paddlefish, Chinese wahoo, Onychostoma sima, Procypris rabaudi, etc. We found in 2020, there are only 20 species of fish.
In order to save the precious fish resources of the Yangtze River in time, the CBCGDF Fish Protection Center (OEFU) has also established a big data platform to provide volunteers with shared information. This platform is vividly called “River Eye” by them. Today, the CBCGDF Fish Protection Center has nearly 48,000 volunteers. The team’s total patrol mileage in the past three years has exceeded 900,000 kilometers. A total of more than 6,000 illegal electric fishermen have been captured by fishery authorities in various regions. More than 13,000 sets of electric fishing equipment and more than 22,000 sets of illegal nets have been seized. They have become an important civil force in combating illegal fishing.
Zhu Kai, head of the CBCGDF Fish Protection Center (OEFU): in the past, the government felt that we were a unit to find troubles. Through our own efforts, we cooperated with them to find clues and arrest criminals. Now they think we are a very important supplementary force of the government.
Original Chinese article:
By / Zhang Daqian Modified / Niu Jingmei