Sansha appoints island chiefs to protect environment

Updated 2018-01-20 11:51:07 Xinhua

Liang Feng gave up his centuries-long family tradition of fishing, to accept a new job -- island chief of Sansha in the South China Sea, one of China's youngest cities.

The island chief is a job appointed by the Sansha government to control pollutant discharge, protect sea turtles and restore the environment on the islands.

Sansha piloted the mechanism in Qilianyu Islands, which cover an area of 1.2 square kilometers. Liang is among the first batch of eight island chiefs in Qilianyu; he guards Zhaoshu Island.

A bulletin board stands on the island's deck, displaying the island's name and coverage, as well as the name, phone number and the responsibility of its island chief.

Liang's daily work involves checking if there is coral reef damage, serious coastline erosion and illegal tourism, as well as protecting the sea turtles who lay eggs on the island.

"Besides, I need to keep an eye on illegal fishing," he said.

There is a Chinese saying: if you live near the ocean, you rely on it to raise your family. Liang's family has long lived on Zhaoshu Island and made a living from fishing.

However, fishermen have noticed the subtle changes of the island -- the color loss of the beautiful coral, coastline erosion and a decreasing number of sea turtles.

"Sea turtles are very sensitive to environmental change. The deteriorating environment affected their life and hatching," said Zou Zhi, another island chief in Qilianyu Islands.

Since the establishment of Sansha city in 2012, the city government has intensified measures to improve the environment of the islands.

Zhaoshu Island has a registered population of 209. "In order to protect the environment, Zhaoshu started controlling its population," Liang said.

The local government also convinced fishermen who had long lived on the islands to make career changes and devote more to marine conservation. Liang organized a guard team consisting of 15 fishermen, including himself, to conduct routine patrols, collect ocean garbage, trim plants and dispose of sewage and construction waste.

In addition, the Sansha government issued a strict ban in 2012 on turtle poaching in all areas under its jurisdiction, while educating local fishermen to protect the rare species.

"We persuaded fishermen to cut off electricity even in scorching summer and reduce human activity near the beaches on which turtles usually lay eggs," Zou said.

Thanks to their efforts, the number of turtle nests on the Qilianyu Islands climbed to 168 in 2017 from 52 in 2014.

Now 33 people have given up fishing on Zhaoshu Island and most of them devote themselves to island environmental conservation.

"I hope that the remaining fishermen will go ashore one day and protect the ocean that we relied on for generations," Liang said.

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