European Fishes Disappearing From Ertix River, NW China

Fishes of European species found only in the Ertix River in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, northwest China, are in danger of extinction because of deteriorating environment and excessive fishing.

Included are the Siberian sturgeon, Alaska grayling, taimen, cod and pike, experts said Saturday.

Rare fishes are shrinking in size and dwindling in numbers. Excessive fishing, described as "water may flow away, but fish must stay," has remarkably reduced aquatic production in the Ertix River, said Li Sifa, a professor from Shanghai University of Aquatic Products after investigating the area.

According to Li, the deteriorating environment has stopped some migratory fishes' spawn migrations upriver, and the construction of large-scale water projects has lowered the water level.

The Ertix River, covered by ice for almost five months a year, is the only river in China that flows into the Arctic Ocean. This unique ecological environment has made it home to over 30 strains of rare fishes.

It is known to all that before the 1950s "people could catch a roe with a rod and scoop out fish with a half-gourd-spoon," along the river. In the early 1990s the Ertix provided more than 500 tons of fish per year. But only 70 tons were caught in 1999, with several strains having disappeared.

A fish reproductive base has been set up in the Ertix River by the Shanghai University of Aquatic Products and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps to save rare fish resources in the river.

( People's Daily January 06, 2002)