The Chinese sturgeon, a critically endangered fish species that has lived in the Yangtze River for more than 100 million years, is being driven closer to extinction because of irresponsible actions by some local authorities, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The story of this man-made ecological disaster began this summer, when the central China region, where the river passes through, was hit by a heavy rainstorm that led to serious flooding.
The floods threatened a hydroelectric dam in Qingjiang, a branch of the Yangtze in central Hubei province, prompting officials to order the discharge of water from the reservoir without prior warning on the night of July 19.
While the move helped ease the pressure on the dam, a team of experts under the Ministry of Agriculture said a study showed that the action has seriously affected the habitat and therefore the existence of the Chinese sturgeon, a species that has long been strictly protected by the Chinese government just like the giant panda.
They said the flood discharge demolished hundreds of cages in the river to breed various foreign sturgeon species, such as the Siberian sturgeon, and hybrid ones.
As a result, the fish, with a combined weight of tens of thousands of tons, fled downstream.
Now the major worry of experts is that these foreign and hybrid species would compete for food with the Chinese sturgeon living in the river, and thus threaten the latter’s existence.
Their concern appears to have been supported by reports from fishermen near the estuary of the Yangtze in Jiangsu province, who said they could now catch sturgeons more easily than before.
Experts call the situation a man-made ecological disaster from which the Chinese sturgeons would probably need decades to recover, if at all.
They also said it is very likely that the number of purebred Chinese sturgeons will diminish as it has become unavoidable for them to mate with the foreign species under the situation.
Experts are now trying to find ways to keep the risk of extinction faced by Chinese sturgeons as low as possible.
Available data shows that the number of Chinese sturgeons in the river stood at more than 10,000 in the 1970s, but has kept declining ever since because of multiple factors, including environmental pollution and dam construction on the Yangtze.
Their population could have fallen to as low as less than a hundred, experts said.
[Chinese version 中文版]
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