Policies, Regulations, and Eco-ethical Wisdom Relating to Ancient Chinese Fisheries



Marine ecosystems are in serious troubles globally, largely due to the failures of fishery resources management. To restore and conserve fishery ecosystems, we need new and effective governance systems urgently. This research focuses on fisheries management in ancient China. We found that from 5,000 years ago till early modern era, Chinese ancestors had been constantly enthusiastic about sustainable utilization of fisheries resources and natural balance of fishery development. They developed numerous rigorous policies and regulations to guide people to act on natural laws. Being detailed and scientific, the legal systems had gained gratifying enforcement, due to official efforts and folks’ voluntary participation in resource management. In-depth analyses show that people’s consciousness of ecological conservation was derived from the edification of kinds of ancient eco-ethical wisdom, such as totemism, nature worship, Zhou Yi, Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Mohism, etc. All this Chinese classical wisdom have the same cores: “Nature and Man in One” spirit, frugality and “All things are equal” concept. The findings show that eco-ethical thinking is never inconsistent with social ethic systems, and it’s of great importance to give legal effect to usual ecological moral claims and eco-ethical requirements of the public in protecting the environment. The eco-ethical wisdom is efficient in assisting and urging people to fulfill humans’ obligation for nature. Finally, it’s believed that present world fisheries management will benefit a lot from all these ancient Chinese thoughts and practices. People are expected to make the most of the eco-ethical wisdom, strengthen fishery legislation and fully stimulate their voluntary participation in both marine fishery resources conservation and fishery cyclic economy.


Fishery resources management Policies and regulations Ancient China Eco-ethical wisdom Ecological moral claims Sustainable development 



This research was supported by the National Key Basic Research Development Plan of China (Grant No. 2006CB400608). We wish to thank Prof. Alasdair D. McIntyre from University of Aberdeen and several anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of OceanologyChinese Academy of SciencesQingdaoChina
  2. 2.Graduate University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Yellow Sea Fisheries Research InstituteChinese Academy of Fishery SciencesQingdaoChina

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