The Chinese sturgeon, a prehistoric fish believed to be on the
verge of extinction, lives in an appalling environment with the
country's booming economy threatening to finish it off, an expert
said in Beijing on Tuesday.
The rapid development of the economy, increased human activity
and water pollution have all led to the fish's decline, according
to Zhang Xianliang, director of the Yangtze River Fishery Research
Institute with the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences, who was
speaking at a forum on aquariums.
The Chinese sturgeon, considered a living fossil because it is
one of the oldest vertebrates in the world, has existed for more
than 200 million years, although it is not known how many remain in
The fish are mostly found in the Yangtze and its estuary just
north of Shanghai.
The construction of the Gezhouba Dam on the river is believed to
have decimated sturgeon numbers. The fish gather at the mouth of
the Yangtze each spring to swim to spawning grounds upstream, but
the dam project, which began in 1981, has cut the spawning area
from 600 kilometers to just seven kilometers, Zhang said.
The number of Chinese sturgeon that migrate to the Yangtze River
each year to spawn has dropped from 2,176 in the early stages of
the project to just 500 today.
The fish is a protected species in China and people who catch or
sell sturgeon face heavy fines.
Since the 1990s, China has been breeding the fish in captivity
and releasing fry into the Yangtze in the hope of boosting flagging
"Despite the government's efforts, monitoring results show that
the decline in the number of the fish has not been halted," Zhang
He said that the more money should be invested in protecting the
endangered fish and more diverse methods of conservation should be
(Xinhua News Agency October 25, 2006)