Program for Wetland Protection in China
A Critical Resource Under Threat
China’s wetlands cover 63 million hectares and are home to many of the world’s most endangered species including the Oriental Stork, Chinese Alligator, Crested Ibis, and Finless Porpoise. These habitats also support human life by providing food—fish, crabs, and other marine life—as well as reclaimed land for agriculture.
The reduction in and degradation of wetlands has caused their services to decline; their critical role in storing, filtering, and purifying water – as well as in moderating floods – has diminished. Today communities near the Yangtze and its tributaries face greater fluctuations in water level, less water storage, higher levels of contamination, and a reduced food supply.
As stocks of fish commonly used for food continue to be depleted, both local communities and various endangered species which rely on them are placed at risk. In addition, in order to achieve the catch to which they are accustomed, both community members and professional fishers are increasingly driven to utilize more drastic fishing techniques: electric shocks, fixed nets, lake drainage, etc. These techniques in turn cause further depletion of fish stocks, and the vicious circle continues as people need to intensify their destructive fishing methods in order to catch the desired amount of fish.
Rare’s Program for Wetlands Protection in China
Rare has launched projects with seven local partners to preserve wetland habitat and reduce overfishing. As with most Chinese wetland reserves, the proposed sites are home to rural farmers and fishers who continue to rely significantly on the reserves’ natural resources for their income and sustenance. The campaigns are designed to reduce overfishing in a manner that improves the livelihoods of in the communities, which is the key to sustaining impact long term.
Rare and its partners will work with local park staff and community leaders to form a co-management committee to plan a way to keep fishing while preserving the food supply for all species. The committee will determine the agreement by assessing the following options and choosing those that best fit the site’s geography and biodiversity:
• Licensing: Reduce the overall number of fishers. This solution makes most sense when fishers already have secondary jobs, such as farming – or when alternative livelihoods are readily available.
• Gear restrictions: Banning techniques that degrade ecosystems by damaging aquatic plants, changing water levels, and inadvertently killing other species.
• No-take zones: Barring fishing in certain areas. This makes most sense if endangered species tend to congregate in specific parts of the reserve, or if geography/landmarks make zoning easy.
• Seasonal restrictions: People cannot fish at certain times of year. This makes most sense for locations with high populations of migratory birds.
Once the options that best fit the site are selected, community leaders will agree to implement and follow restrictions in exchange for renewed rights to fish. They will be motivated to help enforce regulations of resources they now partially own.
This cohort of campaigns offers the opportunity to positively change the behaviors of more than 50,000 fishers and 200,000 community members. Measuring fish catch per unit of effort will ensure that community fishers benefit from adhering to regulations. Rare and its partners will also monitor fish biomass increases and populations of targeted species. If successful, these campaigns could serve as a model for over 200 wetland reserves in China.
For more information on this program download the brochure: