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Restoring a natural treasure

By Sun Ye | China Daily | Updated: 2015-11-25 07:49


Restoring a natural treasure

Fishmen now fish in a limited area on the Honghu Lake to keep the ecological balance of the area.[Photo by Sun Ye/China Daily]

Once a 41,000 hectare haven for fishermen, the lake was dying by early 2000. Now, a decade after a project to revive it was started, the water body in Hubei province is coming back to life. Sun Ye reports.

Honghu Lake, Hubei province's biggest lake, is "a place better than paradise" with abundant fish, rice, lotus and ducks, says a popular Chinese folk song.

This was true until overfishing in the 1980s and 1990s ruined the 41,000-hectare haven for the fishermen.

Fisherman Zhang Shengyuan says: "When I was little, wild geese flew over my head in the autumn and covered the entire sky."

His family began living off the wetland from the time of his great-grandfather.

He learned fishing, the family trade, from watching his grandfather and father easily collecting fish from the water when he was old enough to row a boat.

"Believe me, I am not exaggerating," says the 57-year-old.

"The water back then was cleaner than your mineral water bottles."

They fished the traditional way, a bamboo clip the size of one's finger would snap open in a fish's mouth, letting smaller ones off the hook. "No using nets that would catch them all," says Zhang.

But fences of nets came along when fishermen wanted more money, and to double the harvest in the 1980s. Then came traps fixed in all directions-the fine webbed arrangement was called "mazes".

When the fish stocks were exhausted, the fishermen tried to shoot wild birds. When the birds were gone, they raised crabs in the water. Fertilizers were poured in. And the lake was dying.

"The lake was so smelly that one could barely stand it," says Zhang.

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