Chinese paddlefish in Yangtze River declared extinct

The Psephurus gladius was about 2m to 3m long and could grow longer than 7m. The fish had existed for 15 million years.
The Psephurus gladius was about 2m to 3m long and could grow longer than 7m. The fish had existed for 15 million years.PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

BEIJING • Psephurus gladius, a Chinese paddlefish living in the Yangtze River, has been declared extinct, according to a paper from Chinese experts at the Yangtze River Fisheries Research Institute.

The paper, which was published in the online edition of the international journal Science Of The Total Environment on Dec 23, shows the largest freshwater fish in China might have gone extinct sometime between 2005 and 2010.

Mr Wei Qiwei, one of the paper's authors, yesterday said experts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature estimated last September that this unique and first-class protected fish had been extinct already.

It represents another animal declared extinct in the Yangtze River in recent years.

The baiji, or Yangtze River dolphin, a type of freshwater dolphin, and reeves shad have both been classified as functionally extinct.

Psephurus gladius was about 2m to 3m long and could grow longer than 7m. The fish had existed for 15 million years. The Chinese paddlefish had also been on the critically endangered list since 1996.

The latest discovery of the fish was in 2003, when scientists helped the fish to return and tried to track it, but a boat accident caused the tracking efforts to fail. Since then, no discovery was reported and no such fish had been kept in captivity.

"Psephurus gladius was so big that it was hard to raise in captivity," Mr Wei said. Between 1984 and 1993, he once tried to save four trapped fish, but only one survived and returned to the river.

The extinction of the fish has sparked public attention, with people expressing sadness and their hope that animal resources would be better protected so future generations could see them.

 

Starting on Jan 1, China has imposed a 10-year fishing ban on key areas of the Yangtze River to protect biodiversity in the country's longest river, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 05, 2020, with the headline 'Chinese paddlefish in Yangtze River declared extinct'. Print Edition | Subscribe