Former fisherman celebrates first Spring Festival ashore

2021-02-28 12:08:39

NANJING - It was the first time for 75-year-old fisherman Zhou Yalin to celebrate the Spring Festival ashore after he bid farewell to his fishing career on the Yangtze River, China's longest river, last year. After enjoying dinner with his family, Zhou watched the Spring Festival Gala on TV and stayed up all night on Chinese Lunar New Year's Eve for the first time in his life. "I used to catch fish on the river on New Year's Eve for there would be a surge in demand for aquatic products during the Spring Festival," recalled Zhou, who like most fishermen believed that a good New Year's Eve catch would bring about a bountiful harvest in the new year. Zhou's family has been engaged in the fishing business for four generations in a small village in the city of Taizhou, East China's Jiangsu province. Born on a fishing boat, Zhou took it for granted that he would make a living by fishing, just as his ancestors did. "I was destined to be a fisherman, as it's almost like my family inheritance," Zhou said, who started his fishing career at the age of 17. "Ya," the second character in Zhou Yalin's name, delivers a blessing of "keeping the boat steady" in the local dialect. In Zhou's village, there are 44 people whose names include "Ya." However, even the calmest seas will eventually be beset by waves. For many years Zhou worked elbow to elbow with five family members on a cramped fishing vessel, and even permanently disfigured his little finger due to the hard graft. Last year, Zhou's family had a chance to embrace a new life. On Jan. 1 this year, a 10-year fishing ban took effect in pivotal waters of the Yangtze, after 332 conservation areas along the river enforced the fishing ban a year ago, to help the river recover from dwindling aquatic resources and falling biodiversity. According to previous estimates, the full-scale ban is likely to affect more than 113,000 fishing boats and nearly 280,000 fishermen in 10 provincial regions along the river. Ending his family's long connection with the fishing trade once and for all, Zhou handed in all his fishing equipment to the local government to be destroyed, including his boats, fishing nets and hooks, and received 230,000 yuan (about 35,600 U.S. dollars) in compensation. Zhou's decision won support from his family. "I witnessed the rapid decline of fishery resources in the Yangtze, and as a fisherman, I felt deeply ashamed," said his son-in-law Yin Qiqiao, who once followed Zhou to fish in the Yangtze but now works as a patrolman along the river. Yin never expected to become a protector of the Yangtze. Now his work is to monitor illegal poaching in the river and clear the waste on the riverbanks. Zhou's family, like many others, moved ashore into a new two-story house last year without spending a penny. At the end of last year, the big family welcomed their newest member. "She doesn't have a name yet, but 'Ya' is no longer an option," he said.