China has earmarked 10.7 million yuan (US$1.3 million) to set up a rescue center for sturgeon, particularly rare species such as paddlefish and Chinese sturgeon, in the southwestern Sichuan Province.
The center, covering 12 hectares, will be located in Yibin city in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, China's longest river, say officials with the Yibin municipal government.
It will serve as a major ecological base for scientific research, production and sightseeing upon completion in 2005, according to the local government officials.
While the central and local coffers will both allocate funds to back the program, the local government has also raised some money, they say.
The Yibin section of the Yangtze river is a haven for Chinese sturgeon and paddlefish to spawn in spring.
Paddlefish and Chinese sturgeon are dubbed "living fossils" of the Yangtze River and are under top protection in China, just like giant pandas.
Investigations show that 69 varieties of plankton and 48 other species of animals, which live at the bottom of the river, inhabit this section of the Yangtze River, but the number of fish has reduced drastically in recent years due to the deterioration of the environment.
China has started to offset those negative impacts by artificial breeding and releasing fry of the rare aquatic species into the river.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture, China has released 6.3 million Chinese sturgeon fry in the Yangtze River from artificial breeding centers since 1983.
In the three years from 1999 to 2002, the country released 300,000 sturgeon fry longer than 10 centimeters.
China has also imposed fishing bans on the Yangtze River in the spring and summer seasons, prohibiting the commercial sales of wildlife in the river.
Meanwhile, the country built a nature reserve along the 400-kilometer section of the upper reaches of the Yangtze River in April, 2000 to protect rare fish that inhabit the waters between Leibo and Hejiang counties.
(Xinhua News Agency March 30, 2004)