Freshwater Ecosystem Conservation in Hainan

Yinggeling National Nature Reserve (YGL), in Hainan, has the most extensive tropical rainforest in South China, and is an important watershed for the two largest drainage basins in Hainan – the Nandu and Changhua rivers. The communities around YGL are blessed with the rivers' rich aquatic resources, which provide them with potable and irrigation water, and feed them with animal protein in the abundant fish life.

But over the years, the river health has been deteriorating: pollution by farming chemicals and organic wastes, erosion by expanding farmland, impoundment for hydropower and irrigation, over-fishing, usually by destructive fishing practices such as dynamite fishing and poisoning, have decimated the fish population. Villagers report a sharp decline in most fish species, and the more sensitive species, such as the Red-faced Giant Barb (Spinibarbus denticulatus) are locally extinct.

In 2007, Kadoorie Conservation China (KCC), a Department of KFBG, together with YGL started to encourage local communities to consider setting up their own village's fish no-catch zones to recover fish populations and increase catch outside these zones. We began the project in Daoyin Village, Baisha County.

After lengthy discussions, in 2008 Daoyin villagers selected the widest and deepest section of Nankai River with the highest fish concentration to be their Fish Sanctuary (FS). They also devised their own community rules and regulations regarding the Fish Sanctuary.

Since the Daoyin FS success, we promoted the idea to other villages. Through interviews, discussions and demonstrations, more villages accepted the idea of the FS project. In order to support them, we provided education workshops and helped erect signage in FS sites. Capacity building programmes were also organized for reserve staff. Now there are 15 FSs at 11 sites in and around the reserve. In addition, education programmes on fish and freshwater ecosystem conservation were held at nearby schools to raise awareness among the younger generations.