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Chinese paddlefish added to list of world's extinct species

By CUI JIA | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-07-23 08:09
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Visitors view a specimen of a Chinese paddlefish at the Beijing Museum of Natural History on June 18. TIAN YUHAO/CHINA NEWS SERVICE

It's official. We will never see a living Chinese paddlefish again as it has been declared extinct. For many in the country, this may have been the first time they heard the name of the fish that was once a denizen of the Yangtze River Basin.

On Friday, the topic was one of the most discussed on the Sina Weibo, a social media platform. Many said that they are sad to see the species that has outlived dinosaurs relegated to oblivion by human activity.

Meanwhile, it has provided an opportunity for conservation experts to raise public awareness about the urgency of protecting freshwater species in the Yangtze River Basin and educate the public on the need for more efforts to save from extinction other species living in the region.

On Thursday, the International Union for Conservation of Nature updated its Red List of Threatened Species-the world's most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of plants and animals-which assesses their risk of extinction. It confirmed the extinction of the Chinese paddlefish and moved the Yangtze sturgeon from critically endangered to extinct in the wild.

According to the IUCN, the global sturgeon reassessment found that all remaining 26 sturgeon species in the world are now at risk of extinction, up from 85 percent in 2009. Their decline over the past three generations is steeper than previously thought.

The Chinese paddlefish was among the world's biggest freshwater species and could grow up to 7.5 meters in length. The ancient fish is thought to have been around since some 200 million years ago. It was last spotted in 2003.

The extinction of the Chinese paddlefish should be a warning for everyone, said Zhou Fei, China's chief program officer at the World Wide Fund for Nature.

"To prevent further loss of fresh-water species in China, we must act urgently. There is no time to waste. Also, long term threats to their life and habitats must be eliminated by implementing systematic protection measures. It's not something that can be achieved by certain departments. Instead, it requires joint effects from all sectors of society," Zhou said.

There are about 400 species of fish in the Yangtze River Basin and 92 of them have been included on the Red List. The task of protecting fish in the river is very challenging but a significant move has been made, said Wang Limin, vice-president of the Changjiang (Yangtze River) Conservation Foundation.

On Jan 1, 2021, a complete 10-year fishing ban took effect in certain stretches of the Yangtze, China's longest river, which has provided unprecedented opportunities for aquatic species to recover, Wang said.

"After people become aware of the extinction of the Chinese paddlefish, I believe they will be more willing to make more efforts in the conservation of the endangered Chinese sturgeon as well as helping the Yangtze sturgeon, which can be bred in captivity, returned to the wild. These species still have a chance."

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