Local prosecutors act against illegal fishing, pollution

(chinadaily.com.cn)Updated : 2019-08-27

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An aerial view of the Qingdao West Coast New Area on Sept 5, 2018. [Photo/VCG]

A special campaign launched by China's Supreme People's Procuratorate since 2017 has effectively safeguarded oceans' ecological environment as well as the interests of local citizens in the coastal cities of East China's Shandong province.

Under the guidance of the Procuratorate, prosecutors and investigators in Shandong identified 190 public interest litigation cases in the field of marine ecological and environmental protection by the end of July, filing 158 cases, handling 121 pre-litigation cases, and initiating eight public interest litigation cases, according the sources at Shangdong's People's Procuratorate.

Around 58.06 hectares of fishing grounds have been closed to rehabilitate the ocean and some 249 illegal buildings near ecological vulnerable regions have been dismantled. Administrative fines of more than 79 million yuan ($11.2 million) and 8.5 million yuan in claims for marine fishery resource restoration have been collected.

The People's Procuratorate is China's highest national level state organ responsible for legal supervision. They exercise procuratorial authority over cases seriously endangering state and public security, infringement upon citizens' personal and democratic rights, and a variety of national legal fields.

Protecting Shandong's maritime eco-environment is particularly significant as the province has a coastline of over 3,000 kilometers, accounting for one-sixth of that of the country.

In the campaign, procuratorates in coastal cities such as Qingdao, Yantai and Weihai solved a number of entrenched problems in marine ecological protection.

Last year, Laoshan District People's Procuratorate of Qingdao received a public report that sewage water from an old coastal residential area in Laoshan district was directly being discharged into the sea without any treatment.

The procuratorate investigated and visited several surrounding communities, and found that there were similar problems in six adjacent residential areas. The problem stemmed from lack of inclusion of residential areas in the municipal sewage pipe network.

On July 31 last year, the procuratorate issued suggestions to relevant government departments and offered rectification plans.

At the same time, the procuratorate held hearings with environmental protection authorities, sub-district offices and representatives from the residential areas, to discuss operational treatment plans.

To date, three residential areas have completed sewage discharge rectification and preparation for further efforts in four other residential areas continues.

"After procuratorial suggestions are issued, we still have to work with involved sides to supervise and urge a solution to the problem," said Mao Yongqiang, chief procurator of the Laoshan District People's Procuratorate.

Illegal fishing is a recurring problem in marine farming, directly affecting the sustainable development of marine resources.

Last August, three men were found illegally fishing during a seasonal ban in Weihai City. By using prohibited fishing gear with mesh sizes smaller than the national standard, they captured a total of 91,040 kg of anchovies.

Entrusting professional institutions to make an appraisal, the local procuratorate learned that the required costs used to restore the marine resources damaged by the three men reached 758,000 yuan.

Last December, the district procuratorate of Huancui in Weihai filed criminal and civil public interest lawsuits to Huancui district court, demanding the three men repair the damaged marine fishery resources by releasing 89 million shrimp seeds.

On March 5, the case opened a court hearing. The three men accepted voluntarily breeding and releasing shrimp seeds to restore fishery resources under the direction of the Huancui district marine development bureau.

"Administrative departments, though in charge, have limitations when cracking down on such cases as illegal fishing," said Liu Hao, a marine law enforcement officer in Huancui district.

"The procuratorial organs, through civil public interest litigation attached to criminal cases, severely crack down on illegal fishing, which has a great deterrent effect," Liu added.