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Report: China's Polluted Sea Area Almost Doubles

China's State Oceanic Administration has issued a report saying the country's offshore sea area suffering from serious pollution now exceeds 160,000 square km, almost doubling in size over the past decade.

The report outlining China's oceanic development strategy issued on Friday reveals that high levels of chemical nutrients in the sea water of some bays and sea areas near cities have led to deterioration in water quality.

Red tides now occur an average of 60 times each year and pose a grave threat to the quality of marine products and can even lead to poisoning and death from eating the contaminated sea food, according to the official Xinhua news agency quote from the report.

Desertification remains a great threat to the country's maritime environment although extensive rehabilitation efforts have been taken. The report notes that the percentage of unsalvageable eco-systems stands at 73 percent for mangroves, 80 percent for coral reefs and 57 percent for wetlands.

Over-fishing and frequent red tides have continually reduced the fish catches since 1999, leaving some areas totally depleted of fish. Oil spills caused by shipping and drilling have also contributed to the deterioration.

Inorganic nitrogen was the main pollutant found in most of the country's offshore sea areas, especially in Shanghai and Zhejiang Province, where the quality of seawater has been below the lowest fourth level for years.

In a related development, Xinhua reports China will spend around 40 billion yuan, or about US$5.6 billion, on ecological rehabilitation projects and on protecting the Bohai Sea which experts have warned could become a "dead sea" if urgent action is not taken.

The State Oceanic Administration report on Friday shows that while the Bohai Sea accounts for only 2.6 percent of China's sovereign sea area, about 40 percent of the country's untreated waste water is emptied into it every year.

The general plan for environmental protection of the Bohai Sea includes new monitoring and emergency response systems, urban water treatment plants and garbage disposal facilities as well as rectification of industrial pollution sources.

( February 23, 2008)

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