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Chinese Sturgeon Set Free

Over 10,000 Chinese sturgeon fry, 200 junior sturgeon and two adult fish were released yesterday into the Yangtze River at Yichang port.

The rare and endangered Chinese sturgeon is a top-level protected spieces, and 5 million of the fish bred in captivity have been released into the wild over the past 20 years.

The newly released fish are now thought to be on their way downstream before they swim into the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea.

"Protection of the wild species should be tightened during any project construction," said Niu Dun, vice-minister of the Ministry of Agriculture, referring to the Three Gorges Dam project.

The captivity-reared Chinese sturgeon were released with help from the Ministry of Agriculture and the China Three Gorges Project Corporation.

It marks the 20th anniversary of China's efforts to protect the endangered fish, whose exact number is not known.

Containing the physical characteristics of both ancient and modern fish, the Chinese sturgeon is a kind of living fossil. It is also referred to as the "panda under the water."

Every autumn to summer shoals of sturgeon head for the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, usually to the section in southwest China's Sichuan Province, to spawn.

The long swim between the sea and the upper reaches section is about 3,000 kilometres, a distance that will take the fish a year to travel.

Newly hatched sturgeon will then be led back to the sea by their parents.

It is estimated that currently fewer and fewer Chinese sturgeon swim back to the source of the river to spawn because of over-fishing and pollution.

The building of the Gezhouba Dam in the early 1980s also blocked the sturgeon's path back to the upper reaches.

(China Daily April 29, 2005)


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