HEFEI, July 9 (Xinhua) -- Wang Shengbao, a fisherman in east China's Anhui Province, is bidding farewell to his fishing boat.
Wang's 18-meter boat, which he purchased less than two years ago, is now floating on a tributary around 1 kilometer from the main stream of the Yangtze River, China's longest.
"I started fishing full-time as soon as I graduated from junior high school when I was 15," the 33-year-old said, adding he had been fishing with his father since he was a kid.
To protect the Yangtze's fish stocks, a fishing ban has been in place since 2003. The ban has left fishermen idle for several months each year, and this year's down time lasted from March 1 until June 30. Fishing is completely prohibited in 332 reserves in the river basin, with Wang's hometown, Datong Township, among them. Datong, which falls under jurisdiction of Tongling City, is located in a reserve for river dolphins.
A total of 235 fishermen must seek other sources of income or wait till 2019 to start fishing again.
"I was a little sad, but I understand the need to protect the river," Wang said.
"There are far fewer fish in the river compared to ten or twenty years ago. At that time, we came back fully loaded despite poor fishing equipment. Now, even with advanced gear, we never catch so much," Wang said.
An investigation into fishery resources showed that there were 86 species of fish in the the Tongling section of the Yangtze River, including three protected species. By 2014, the figure had nearly halved.
Aware that his fishing days were numbered, Wang made new plans and turned to breeding fish.
"I've earned more through fish-farming than I ever did fishing in the river," he said.
Wang also has big plans for the future with rural tourism, angling and a guest house on his farm.
Zhang Xianmin, 52, who used to fish in the Anqing section of the Yangtze, put down his fishing gear and joined a patrol team to protect the finless porpoise a year ago. The finless porpoise is critically endangered. For many reasons, the population has declined rapidly.
"My role has completely changed," Zhang said. "We must stop abusing our mother river and protect her instead."
By the end of this year, more fishermen like Zhang, will have withdrawn from fishing and joined the patrol team.