Highlights from the 2018 State of China’s Marine Ecological Environment Report

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The ”2018 State of China’s Marine Ecological Environment Report” was officially released by China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment on May 29. Following are some important findings and highlights from the report.

The report shows a general improvement in ocean health in most categories, including the overall national ocean ecosystem. However, the water quality of river water flowing into the ocean is “not optimal” and coastal areas remain severely polluted. Overall marine water quality has improved since 2017. The total area of “low level four” quality ocean water, the most polluted category, has decreased by 450 square kilometres. Ocean water rated “good quality” has increased to 6.7% of the total ocean water under China’s jurisdiction.

The report rated the best coastal water quality in Hebei, Guangxi and Hainan, while Shanghai and Zhejiang’s coastal water was rated as very bad. Out of 44 bays larger than 100 square kilometres, 16 suffer from the worst category of pollution all four seasons of the year. The polluters are mainly inorganic nitrogen and phosphate.

There are 56680 square kilometres of ocean that suffer from eutrophication, and severely affected regions include Liaodong Bay, Bohai Bay, the Yangtze River outlet, Hangzhou Bay, and the Pearl River outlet. The report did not find unusual levels of radiation in China’s oceans.

74.8% of the nation’s swimming beaches enjoy good quality water, but 71.4% of the ocean’s ecological systems remain in poor health. Out of the 25 protected areas analyzed by the report, beaches, coasts, islands and historical areas have remained protected, but the total area of coral reefs and shell banks have continued to shrink.

Chinese coastal wetlands remain home to seven species of bird listed as threatened by the IUCN, three of which are endangered. When it comes to the 194 rivers that empty into the ocean, on average they suffer from “light” levels of pollution, and overall quality has increased since last year. Tianjin’s river pollution is rated as the worst, while Shanghai’s is rated as the best.

453 waste water disposal points that dump more than 100 cubic meters a day in total discharge around 8.6 billion tons of waste into the ocean. Most of these are “comprehensive” and industrial pollution sources, while a minority comes from domestic pollution. The majority of rubbish in the ocean is plastic. The ocean’s rubbish density is highest near recreational areas, agriculture and fishing areas, and shipping ports.

In the Bohai Sea, Yellow Sea and the South China Sea the surface micro plastic density is 0.42 per cubic meter. The total area of ocean used for dumping has increased since 2017, and the water quality and sedimentation levels in the dumping areas and surrounding ocean meet requirements for ocean protection. The amount of ocean water processed by oil and gas platforms has decreased by 9.3%. Instances of “red tide” have substantively decreased, and the total area affected by “green tides” has also greatly shrunken.