Nearly 9,000 fishing boats were getting ready to sail in south China's Hainan province as a seasonal fishing ban in the South China Sea was lifted Wednesday, local maritime authorities said.

The 35,611 fishermen of Hainan took a rest on May 16 when the fishing ban was imposed. Boats were moored and fishing nets dried for two and a half months.

About 1,000 fishing boats in Lingao county were heading towards Beibuwan Gulf off the coast of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, while 100 others in Tanmen township were ordered to port to avoid storms, said officials with Hainan Marine and Fishery Department.

Fishermen going to Xisha and Nansha Islands were also warned to take precautions against the storms.

Last July, Hainan sent a large fishing fleet to Nansha Islands in the South China Sea to explore fishery resources.

China has set up a prefecture-level city — Sansha, which administers more than 200 islets, sandbanks and reefs in Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands.

Hainan fishery officials previously estimated that Sansha is home to fishery reserves of about 5 million tonnes of fish. Annual sea catches lower than 2 million tonnes can be sustainable. Currently, Hainan fishermen catch only 80,000 tonnes of fish every year, they said.

Hainan aims to shift the focus of its fishing industry from near-shore fishing to far offshore fishing. Fishermen are encouraged to "build big boats and explore the deep sea," said Ding Xiuhong, a fishery official from Sanya.  

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