The Bohai Sea Economic Zone, Zhugiang (Pearl) River Delta region and the Changjiang (Yangtsi) River Delta region are China's three major centers of fast economic growth. As such, the Bohai Sea region, with its growing population and economy, was expected to usher in industrial and urban development. This potential growth was stunted by land-based pollution from upstream provinces and decreasing water resources as well as land reclamation in coastal areas which are likely to further degrade its marine ecosystems and decrease fishery resources.
In 2002, the Bohai Sea's polluted area increased from 24 to 41 percent of the total sea area. The dominant pollutants were inorganic nitrogen, phosphates, lead and mercury. Marine hazards such as red tide, sea ice, storm surges and oil spills contributed to negative impacts on the Bohai Sea. Mitigation measures for pollution by land- and sea-based sources were taken but appeared inadequate to reverse the trends. Forecasting, early warning, preparedness, response and mitigation systems for marine hazards left much room for improvement.
There was an uneven level of economic growth among various areas, increased multiple resource-use conflicts, and the lack of an integrated coastal and marine management mechanism in the region. The traditional single sector or single agency oriented management approaches, mechanisms and tools failed to meet the needs of intensified multiple-use patterns. In 2015 Chinese Government adopted the integrated Water Pollution Prevention and Treatment Action Plan entailing measures for pollution reduction in ten priority industries, sewage treatment in urban and rural areas and ports; industrial restructuring and upgrading; water conservation through water efficiency improvement and technical support; use of market mechanisms; law enforcement; water environment improvement through total pollution load control, environmental risk assessment; safeguard of water security; clarity in roles and responsibilities of all parties; and enhancement of public participation and scrutiny. The Action Plan has set an ambitious target of cleaning 70% of the seven major rivers including Bohai, and achieving 93% of rivers suitable for drinking water use. It is expected these measures will contribute to the recovery of a living Bohai Sea region.