China (herein referred as China’s mainland, and excluding Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) ranks as the world’s leading fishing nation, with approximately 11.1 million tons of domestic marine catch acquired in 2017. Marine fisheries resources in China are mainly exploited by its 11 coastal provinces and municipalities, and the development of fishing industry varies among them. However, few studies have examined the exploitation history of the 11 coastal provinces and municipalities. In this paper, we systematically quantified the exploitation history of marine fishery resources in China and then measured the vulnerability of the 11 coastal provinces and municipalities of China to a reduction in marine catches. Our analysis suggested that Chinese marine fisheries experienced rapid growth from the mid-1980s to the end of the 20th century, and this rapid increase in marine catches were mainly promoted by increased fishing effort. The total primary production required level amounted to approximately 80% of the average primary productivity in 2017, and Zhejiang, Fujian, Shandong, Hainan and Guangdong provinces were the main fishing provinces in China. By assessing three dimensions of vulnerability (exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity) to the impacts of a reduction in marine catches in the 11 coastal provinces and municipalities, we found that Hainan, Guangxi, Zhejiang and Fujian provinces had high or very high vulnerability, while the municipalities of Shanghai and Tianjin had low vulnerability. Identifying suitable adaptation policies and management plans based on the differences in vulnerability among coastal provinces is important in sustainable fisheries management.

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