Chinese Paddlefish Declared Extinct
Over a decade after the last known sightings of the species, the Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius), one of the largest freshwater fishes in the world is declared as extinct by a team of scientists from the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences in Wuhan, China. The species’ last known sighting of a live specimen was way back in 2003 and 2007 was when the last known dead specimen was sighted. There are no reports of seeing the species since then.
The researchers carried out field studies in 2017 and 2018 and also reviewed fish catch records for their study. They tried to catch the fish themselves as well as canvassing fish markets in their field studies but neither did they see any Chinese paddlefish in the market nor did they catch any. During their survey, they had found other 332 fish species but not even one from then was a Chinese paddlefish.
It is estimated that by 1993, the Chinese paddlefish were already unable to reproduce or functionally extinct, and between 2005 and 2010 went completely extinct. There is no hope to resurrect the species through cloning because the Chinese paddlefish not just went extinct in the wild, but there are no tissue samples of the species stored nor are there kept in captivity.
The Chinese paddlefish was also called the “panda of the Yangtze River,” and could grow up to 7 meters in length, hence it was one of the largest freshwater fishes in the world. Until the 1970s, they were popular fish to catch and were prominent in many parts of the Yangtze River. However, their population was split into two due to the building of the Gezhouba Dam and this prevented spawning from the ones trapped below. Only a few of the species were observed by 1995.
The scientists concluded that the reasons for the Chinese paddlefish becoming extinct due to habitat fragmentation, lack of reproduction, and overfishing. According to the researchers, this extinction serves as a lesson in fish conservation, which showed what happens when it is too late for trying to save a species.
The researchers wrote, ” Resulting from multiple threats, the delayed extinction of Chinese paddlefish suggests that there is an immediate need in optimizing conservation efforts on endangered Yangtze fauna.”