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    China Overhauls Marine Laws, Targets Rising Pollution and Waste

    The amended law, which will take effect Jan. 1, focuses on better pollution control and waste management, while also introducing stricter penalties for violations.

    In a move to strengthen marine environmental protection, China has announced amendments to existing laws focused on enhancing pollution control and waste management and introducing stricter penalties for violations. The amended law is set to take effect Jan. 1. 

    Announced Saturday, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment stated that the amendments include a comprehensive management system for key sea areas, a responsibility system for marine environments, and systems for assessing, evaluating, and preventing marine garbage pollution.

    “Pollution is one of the most direct marine problems for the public. In some coastal areas, marine garbage is a prominent issue and has not yet been routinely cleared, affecting beach environments and the public’s seaside experience,” a ministry spokesperson told domestic media. 

    “Some marine pollutants are non-degradable, which can harm marine life and birds, thereby damaging their habitats and threatening biodiversity,” the spokesperson said. 

    Under the amended law, local governments at or above the county level along the coast are mandated to oversee the prevention and control of marine debris pollution. These authorities are required to develop comprehensive systems for the disposal, transfer, and monitoring of marine garbage.

    The law also introduces stricter penalties for activities such as the unlawful discharge of pollutants and waste into the sea, including increased fines, temporary industry bans, and confiscations of vessels. 

    The new rules build on China’s marine protection legislation introduced in 1982, which has since undergone multiple amendments.

    Recent reports of garbage being dumped in China’s coastal areas have raised environmental concerns. For instance, in December, large quantities of fishery waste were found along the shores of Shantou City in the southern Guangdong province. 

    Highlighting challenges in marine protection, domestic media quoted a local official as saying: “Some fishermen overlook the importance of marine conservation, complicating our enforcement efforts. Additionally, pinpointing the origins of this marine waste is also difficult.” 

    To address such issues, the amended law delineates specific sea dumping zones, both nearshore and offshore. The law further mandates the installation of additional online monitoring equipment to oversee daily waste disposal activities in the sea and to enhance the reporting system for dumping operations.

    Editor: Apurva. 

    (Header image: Gu Yue/IC)