Protection over endangered Yangtze species to be 'enhanced'

By Wu Jin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, January 17, 2020
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The Yangtze River, known as the cradle of Chinese civilization, is the world's third longest river with its principal stream covering a distance of 6,397 kilometers from Mt. Tang-ku-la at the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau to Shanghai. But the mighty river has been suffering a tragic loss of biodiversity as various rare species living in the river have become extinct in recent years.

Only a few weeks ago, a paper published in the Science of the Total Environment, an international multi-disciplinary journal, confirmed that the paddlefish, which ranks among the world's top 10 largest freshwater fishes, died out in the river sometime between 2005 and 2010.

The announcement has subsequently drawn immense concern.

During a symposium, hosted recently in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, which is situated mid-stream of the Yangtze River, an expert said that a recent data-collection project between 2017 to 2018 could no longer trace hundreds of species that were living along the river based on historical records.

According to him, the missing species account for approximately one third of the fish inhabiting the river.

To better protect the remaining species still living in the river, the symposium, organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MOA), focused mostly on ways and approaches to protect aquatic creatures, such as the Yangtze River Dolphins, from extinction.

Wei Qiwei,the principal scientist from the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences and the corresponding author of the paper which confirmed the extinction of the Yangtze paddlefish, pointed out in the symposium that it had been years since species such as the hilsa herring and the long spiky-head carp were last seen. This also included the Chinese sturgeon, Yangtze sturgeon and Chinese high-fin banded shark, all of which had stopped reproducing naturally and had to be bred and re-introduced into the river. In addition, Wei said that the Yangtze's severely endangered species also now include the Coreius guichenoti, the Chuan-Shaan Hucho bleekeri, and the giant salamander.

Experts attending the meeting reached a consensus that the river's biodiversity, which has already been deeply affected by human activities and pollution, will be hard to restore with rudimentary techniques.

Cao Wenxuan, an academician and research fellow from the Institute of Hydrobiology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences said that overfishing is the main culprit that has damaged the ecological equilibrium of the Yangtze River.

In previous years, many Chinese sturgeons which were artificially bred were caught barely after they had been set free into the river, Cao recalled.

Based on the current situation, it is important to preserve the Yangtze's upstream tributaries, such as the Chishui River, in the hope that they can provide an unspoiled haven for endangered species to survive, he added.

Fishing has been banned in the conservation areas of the Yangtze River since the beginning of this year. At the same time, the prohibition will expand to the entire trunk stream, other waterways and major tributaries no later than Jan. 1, 2021, for a minimum of 10 years.

The new prohibition will require a massive re-employment of 280,000 people who need to give up fishing in order to make way for the ecological restoration of the Yangtze River. Most of the families affected had relied on fishing for their livelihoods over many generations.

"We should make sure that their great sacrifice and contributions are worthwhile," said Ma Yi, the director of the Yangtze River Department of the MOA.

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