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Warning Issued on Coastal Ocean Pollution
The State Oceanic Administration (SOA) warned the country's major coastal cities on Friday that the marine environment is deteriorating.

According to its 2001 Bulletin on China's Marine Environment, the country's heavily polluted sea area rose by 4,000 square kilometres to a total of 32,590 square kilometres last year, though the country's total area of polluted sea waters decreased.

By the end of last year, China had altogether 173,390 square kilometres of coastal seas suffering from varying degrees of pollution, 33,000 square metres less than in the previous year.

"The heaviest pollution is found in the offshore waters of populous cities and advanced industrial centres, like Tianjin and Shanghai, and there is no sign of abatement so far," said SOA spokesman Wang Fei.

Inorganic nitrogen and phosphates, contained in great quantities in industrial waste water and sewage, remain major threats.

Sea water pollution is traditionally divided into four categories: the first level, termed "normal," supports marine life; the second level, "lightly polluted," can still meet the requirements of marine aquaculture; the third, "considerably polluted," is not suitable for fishing or aquaculture; and the fourth, "heavily polluted," will support neither marine life or human activities.

However, Wang said there was no reason to panic, because investigations by the administration indicate no evidence of obvious negative impacts on bathing beaches and marine aquaculture.

Meanwhile, the administration revealed that marine disasters, mainly storm tides, red tides, excessive wave action, and severe ice build-up, cost the country a total of 10.01 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion) last year and claimed 401 lives.

Among these disasters, "red tides," a proliferation of algae damaging fishing and the aquaculture industry by suffocating fish populations, has increased at an alarming speed, said Xu Sheng, deputy director of the administration's environmental protection division.

According to Xu, red tides hit China 77 times last year, 49 times more than that in 2000, involving a sea area of around 15,000 square kilometres and costing the country 1 billion yuan (US$120.8 million) in economic losses.

"We set up an overall supervision system on red tides last year, and we hope our closer watch this year will help in issuing warnings in order to avoid heavy losses," said Xu.

(China Daily April 1, 2002)

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