The world’s largest freshwater fish makes its home in China’s Yangtze River. At least we hope it still does. Adult Chinese paddlefish have not been caught in the Yangtze since 2003, leading some to believe this ancient fish may be extinct.
The paddlefish is one of about 140 species of fish that are endemic to the Yangtze, meaning they are found nowhere else in the world. If we can’t protect them there, they will vanish forever.
Many of these endemic fish and the other approximately 210 species found in the Yangtze River feed millions of people and are important to China’s economy. But their populations are declining due to pollution, overfishing, hydropower projects and invasive species.
The Nature Conservancy is working with scientists in China to develop an updated guide to the fish in the Yangtze River. The most recent, comprehensive Yangtze fish guide was published in the 1970s, and much has changed over the past 30 years.
“When it is completed, this new guide will be a valuable resource for government agency staff, academic faculty and students, and conservation organizations like The Nature Conservancy,” said Sun Xiaoming, the Conservancy’s Yangtze River project assistant.
“We also believe it will help improve the public’s awareness of the Yangtze River and its unique fish resources and, we hope, arouse public concern about their plight and enthusiasm for protecting them.
The guide will contain information in Chinese and English on the biology, habitat requirements and distribution of approximately 100 rare and endemic fish species along with a photo. Information on the first 50 fish will be published in a report by July 2009. The final guide is expected to be available in 2011.
The fish guide is just one aspect of the Conservancy’s work with the Chinese government, scientists, hydropower companies and other partners to promote sustainable water management on the Yangtze River. More information about the Conservancy’s work on the Yangtze and future updates on the fish guide can be found on the Conservancy’s China website.