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China drafts law to combat illegal fishing, safeguard stocks

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China has invited public responses to a draft law to prevent illegal fishing and depletion of coastal fish stocks, as current legislation is inadequate for sustainable development of the industry, the agriculture ministry said on Wednesday.

China is struggling to remedy damage done by overdevelopment of its rivers and lakes, with fish stocks suffering not only from overfishing, but also industrial pollution and habitat disruptions caused by dams and water diversions.

It has imposed tougher curbs on fishing in rivers, lakes and coastal areas, but some species, such as the Chinese sturgeon, remain on the brink of extinction.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs is seeking responses from the public by Sept. 28 to the draft published on Wednesday, it said on its website.

Illegal and unsustainable fishing practices, such as the use of explosives or electrocution, are still a serious problem in China, it added.

The ministry called for a more comprehensive protection system for aquatic biodiversity, especially on breeding farms, and efforts to halt illegal encroachment by fishing vessels on tidal flats and other protected areas.

Depleting coastal fish stocks made it necessary to improve quota and licensing rules that have not been adequately enforced, it said.

New rules to improve the supervision of vessels and keep catches within stipulated limits are required, and China will also prepare a blacklist for lawbreaking vessels, both domestic and foreign.

Authorities also needed additional powers to investigate the illegal activities of fishing operations and ensure that fishing vessels meet environmental and safety standards.

The new rules allow confiscation of illegal vessels, with severe punishment for their owners and suppliers.

(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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