Iconic Chinese paddlefish and wild Yangtze sturgeon have been officially declared extinct

Iconic Chinese paddlefish and wild Yangtze sturgeon have been officially declared extinct

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has officially confirmed that the Chinese paddlefish and the wild Yangtze sturgeon are extinct on the endangered species list.

The Chinese paddlefish, or Psephurus gladius, was one of the largest freshwater fish in the world, weighing up to 660 pounds and measuring up to 10 feet in length. They were grey, had a white underbelly and small, round eyes. These fishes were endemic to the freshwater wetlands of the Yangtse and Yellow River basins. They migrated upstream to the East China Sea estuary to spawn in mid-March to early April.

The Chinese paddlefish had been protected since 1989. Because the iconic fish species was economically valued for its rarity, they were fished for consumption and often as bycatch.

In 1996, the International Union for Conservation of Nature declared the Chinese paddlefish as critically endangered. The last observation of this fish in the wild was in 2003.

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In 2005, an integrated recovery program was established to protect the species by investigating habitat and feeding behavior, creating captive breeding programs and conserving genetic resources.

In 2019, Chinese paddlefish was listed as extinct in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. A recent reassessment published Thursday confirmed the extinction of the Chinese paddlefish.

Another freshwater river fish species, the Yangtze sturgeon, or Acipenser dabryanus, was listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species in 2019. The recent reassessment relisted the Yangtze sturgeon as extinct in the wild.

The Yangtze sturgeon was endemic to the Yangtze River Basin and the Yellow River Basin. They are blue-grey, have yellowish-white bellies and have large blowholes. This species of fish can grow up to 35 pounds and 4.3 feet.

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Since the 1970s, the Yangtze sturgeon has been bred in captivity and released into the Yangtze basin, but unfortunately has not spawned in the wild.

Acipenseridae are economically important for their culinary prized caviar, but the remaining 26 sturgeon species in the world are also at risk of extinction. Because Yangtze sturgeon females could lay up to 102,000 eggs and their meat was considered a delicacy in China, they were widely caught for human consumption.

Both the Chinese paddlefish and Yangtse sturgeon population declines have been from human impacts and environmental degradation such as overfishing and overharvesting, habitat fragmentation, deforestation, mining, water pollution (wastewater and runoff) and dams. The construction of the Gezhouba Dam and the Three Gorges Dams blocked the anadromous migration of the Chinese paddlefish, reducing their reproduction for offspring.

Featured image via New China TV (left) and CBS News (right)

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