Pollution and over-fishing in China's longest river, the Yangtze, have led to a dramatic depletion of aquatic life in the nation's mother river, said a newly-released report.
The report, entitled Maintaining the Health of the River and Developing a Harmonious Relation between People and Water, released by the Yangtze River Water Resources Commission, said there are now about 1,100 aquatic species in the river, at least 100 fewer than in the 1990s.
Twenty fish species out of a total of 370 are on the endangered list, the report said.
"Although the Chinese paddlefish, white-flag dolphin, Chinese alligator, mullet and black finless porpoise can still survive and breed in the Yangtze River, their numbers keep dropping," said the report, indicating that the white-flag dolphin is on the verge of extinction and that even common species such as carp are struggling to survive.
The annual reproduction of black, grass, silver and variegated carp has dropped from 30 billion in the 1990s to the current 400 million, said the report.
Overfishing is the major cause of the sharp decline, said Chen Yide, vice director of the Ministry of Agriculture's fishery bureau.
Over 250,000 people earn their livelihood from fishing the river, far exceeding its potential capacity, the official said.
The deteriorating environment of the Yangtze River is also having a drastic effect on the number of aquatic species, said the official. According to the report, cities along the river discharge at least 14.2 billion tons of polluted water every year, 42 percent of China's grand total.
Efforts by the Chinese government such as instituting fishing season systems on the Yangtze and of releasing 500 million fish fry into the river have failed as aquatic life has not recovered, leaving the situation ever more critical.
(Xinhua News Agency September 29, 2006)