What many who have an interest in unique fish had feared and expected for many years now has finally been declared extinct. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on Friday officially announced the extinction of these two species; Chinese Paddlefish and Yangtze Sturgeon. This in turn unleashed a torrent of comments on Chinese social media platforms urging for more environmental protections for their waterways.
The Chinese Paddlefish (Psephurus gladius) was one of the two species of paddlefish in the world, with the second being the American Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula). Capable of reaching 10 feet long and reaching 660lbs, with other historical reports of the paddlefish being capable of reaching 23 feet long. They were one of the largest freshwater species of fish in the world. The last sighting of a Chinese Paddlefish was back in 2003, with their actual extinction estimated to be around 2005 but no later than 2010. They had been functionally extinct since 1993 with the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, which blocked their route to their spawning grounds.
The Yangtze Sturgeon (Acipenser dabryanus), also known as the Darby Sturgeon, is an endemic species found in the Yangtze river basin. A very important foodfish that has been in decline since the late 1980s, the Chinese government closed all harvests of them in the wild. But the combination of dams, pollution, and deforestation changing river conditions was too much and they were driven to extinction. At the least, there are still breeding populations kept in captivity, which are used to try and stock the rivers. But due to the dams, these introduced surgeons are apparently not breeding.
The IUCN’s latest list of threatened species shows that 100% of the world’s remaining 26 sturgeon species are now at risk of extinction. This is up from 85% of sturgeons in 2009.
“The assessments are based on new calculations which show their decline over the past three generations to be steeper than previously thought,” the conservation group said, adding that the reassessment had also confirmed the extinction of the Chinese Paddlefish.
Both the Chinese Paddlefish and the Yangtze Sturgeon were very common species in the Yangzte river basin. But due to heavy shipping traffic, overfishing, and water pollution.