The country's first and largest nature reserve for the endangered Chinese sturgeon, with a planned area of 276 square kilometres, will be set up on the east coast of Chongming Island in East China's Shanghai this year, the Shanghai Aquatic Office said.
The reserve, located where the Yangtze River enters the East China Sea, will save 5,000 immature sturgeon a year by providing them a safe, comfortable environment, the office said.
Fishing activities there will be forbidden every spring and summer when the young sturgeon are maturing before their entry into the sea, according to the office.
In addition, a State-level fish research laboratory will be established there by the office to study and protect other endangered water species.
The Chinese sturgeon is a rare species from the Mesozoic Era (144 to 65 million years ago), and it is sometimes referred to as a "living fossil fish" or "the Chinese giant panda in water."
Adult Chinese sturgeons migrate from the sea to the upper reaches of the Yangtze River to spawn every year. The young fish then swim down the river to the area around Chongming Island where they stay for some months before entering the sea.
Due to the deteriorating environment along the river and the increasingly frequent shipping traffic, adult Chinese sturgeon have almost disappeared from the river in the last decade.
It will take the young sturgeon more than 20 years to become sexually mature, which brings even more difficulties to their survival, the office said.
Gao Xuexiang, an official with the office, said the municipal government had formally ratified the massive comprehensive ecological project weeks ago and will invest the first 10 million yuan (US$1.2 million) for the project within three years.
The continuing financial support of the government will help protect the overall ecology around Chongming Island, which also boasts a large population of rare birds that sojourn there every year during their migration from Australia to Siberia, Gao said.
Two decades ago, the country established a small protection zone for the fish's breeding in Yichang, in Central China's Hubei Province, a city near the Three Gorges on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River.
The laboratory in the zone has developed mature artificial fertilization procedures to help the Chinese sturgeon survive.
But the overall ecology along the Yangtze is still essential to the survival of the species, Gao said.
(China Daily July 24, 2002)