Biodiversity lost the Paddlefish (1 Viewer)

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Hailstones Melt

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China has acted too little, too late, as news of one of the first animal extinctions is announced for 2020. The Chinese Paddlefish (relative of Swordfish) is a freshwater species that enjoyed living in the 3,200 km stretch of the Yangtze River for 150 million years, but were down to only 9 known individuals in 2009, and none have been seen anywhere in the River for approximately 8-10 years, and there are none in captivity.

Only last week, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, announced a 10-year ban on fishing at 300 conservation areas along the river, Vice Minister Yu Kangzhen told the China Daily. I'm not sure how well that will go, as the human population living in the environs of the river is mind-blowing.

The largest known ever recorded Chinese Paddlefish was 23 feet long, and weighed in at several thousand pounds. These fish were known as the water tiger, or panda of the Yangtze. They were a charismatic megafauna species found in a freshwater ecosystem. The extinction is thought due to habitat fragmentation and overfishing. They travelled in schools near the surface, and were easily netted. The species reproduced later in life (as it took time to grow to their amazing sizes), and this meant a longer time for the species to recover from depletion.

A quick search on search engines reveals that the paddlefish and swordfish meat made very popular dishes, and when eaten with mainly vegetables would have been a high protein, healthy meal. I wonder how many Chinese have subsisted on this food source for many generations back into antiquity?

In 1970, a hydroelectric scheme was planned and commenced to dam the middle reaches of the Yangtze by the construction of the Gezhouba Dam, which had the devastating affect on this fish species, as it was their habit to travel upstream to the upper reaches of the Yangtze to their spawning grounds, and with the dam in place, they were no longer able to do so.

The only living relative of this fish species is the American paddlefish, which is already extinct in Michigan and Canada. This fish was known in the Mississipi River and there are native American stories about it. It looks like American conservation has a big job on its hands to manage what remains of this fish species in the wild.

On a side note, two other species of fauna native to the Yangtze River have also gone extinct - the Reeves Shad (small fish) and the Yangtze River Dolphin (baiji).

paddle of Chinese paddlefish.jpg
The sword of this fish is more paddle-like, as opposed to the sharp, spiny sword of another swordfish species, the Marlin.

Chinese swordfish exhibit in Smithsonian.png
A Chinese paddlefish on display at the Smithsonian.

Chinese paddlefish_now extinct.png
Tiger-like striped markings

paddlefish declared extinct.jpg

tail of chinese swordfish_freshwater species.png
Strong tail

swordfish_scale.jpg
7561504e-4d59-4f14-a250-f3e6e894b817-AP_China_Three_Gorges.jpg
An image of the China Three Gorges Dam. The Gezhouba Dam of the middle reaches was completed in December 1988. It was called the Gezhouba Water Control Project and was mainly constructed for hydroelectric power generation purposes. This kind of thinking takes the short view. The long view is how long the fish species lived, and what a short time it took to accomplish the extermination of a very successful, long-lived fish species.

chinese swordfish dinner with bok choy.jpg
Chinese swordfish dinner with bok choy

swordfish_blown art glass.jpg origami swordfish.jpg
The fauna of a habitat often informs the art and culture of the region

Reeves Shad.png
Shad


(Edit: there is mention on the internet that although the Baiji (white Yangtze River dolphins) were declared extinct in 2006, a sighting may have been made in 2016, although this could not be scientifically confirmed, and nothing more has been heard in the last 3 years.)
 
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Lila

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Ah, I'd just been reading about the yangtze river dolphin being extinct. It was in a rather more positive context, noted when discussing conservation efforts for the amazon river dolphin which have been quite successful since they have a local woman who is championing them.
It's a knife's edge for so many species;
no champion/s + threats = high likelihood of extinction (can happen really fast)
champion/local tourist of other benefits are recognized + threats = muuuuuch better chance of survival, even full revival.

I've seen this happen in local areas which can bounce back incredibly quickly. One particular place which was amazingly good at bouncing back did so when war stopped people from overcrowding and then, when people returned, they did so with a lighter touch, more awareness and pride in the local environment. This has a huge positive effect.
 
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Hailstones Melt

Hailstones Melt

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It can take an emergency to make people take up the mantle of championing - look at Australia's native wildlife and the bushfires - so many are now looking after and caring for animals rescued out of what seemed like ground zero.
 
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Hailstones Melt

Hailstones Melt

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Ah, I'd just been reading about the yangtze river dolphin being extinct. It was in a rather more positive context, noted when discussing conservation efforts for the amazon river dolphin which have been quite successful since they have a local woman who is championing them.
It's a knife's edge for so many species;
no champion/s + threats = high likelihood of extinction (can happen really fast)
champion/local tourist of other benefits are recognized + threats = muuuuuch better chance of survival, even full revival.

I've seen this happen in local areas which can bounce back incredibly quickly. One particular place which was amazingly good at bouncing back did so when war stopped people from overcrowding and then, when people returned, they did so with a lighter touch, more awareness and pride in the local environment. This has a huge positive effect.
I agree. If you look at that short video at the end of my post (about the Baiji) you will see what a busy, commercialised environment the Yangtze River is in some places - amazing to think anything could exist in the waters below. Many of the dolphins suffered from boat mutilations. Apparently the river is quite dense with sedimentation, and therefore cloudy, with visible particles. But I suppose they are adapted to that.
 
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Hailstones Melt

Hailstones Melt

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Here is a reason why the paddlefish may have been overfished:

260px-Paddlefish_caviar.png
They produce a lot of roe (caviar), and their species is also related to sturgeons which are known for their roe production.

American paddlefish have been sent to Russia to caviar farms to stock lakes, dams and rivers.

260px-American Paddlefish_underwater.jpg
American paddlefish are also kept in aquariums, and are filter feeders (zooplankton and phytoplankton); whereas the Chinese paddlefish did eat small fish and crustaceans. American conservationists also perform operations such as caesarean removal of roe from females for fish propagation to help the species.
 
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Linda

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Watched an interview with poachers in Africa. Even though they understood that the species was going extinct, their immediate needs for themselves and their families blocked out their view of the bigger picture. Saw almost the same conversation about cutting down trees in Madagascar.
 
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therium

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That is too bad. This is not a popular belief but I believe there are too many people on earth using too many resources too fast. That does not mean I support mass murder as a solution. I don't know what to do about it. About 2010 China stopped it's "one child" law so now they can have many children. But they have so many people crowded around in cities already with so much pollution and sickness.
 
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Hailstones Melt

Hailstones Melt

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I'll never know this for certain, but surely the Chinese authorities knew that damming the Yangtze River would divide the fish population in half, leaving the half in the lower reaches unable to gain their spawning grounds in the upper reaches, every year. If they did this knowingly, that means they made a decision about priorities - and hydroelectric power for their masses of people won out over an amazing, ancient, powerful and successful species.

A bit like when the aliens who were road-building our part of space decided to wipe out Earth because a major artery was coming through (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy).
 
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Linda

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A bit like when the aliens who were road-building our part of space decided to wipe out Earth because a major artery was coming through (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy).
One of my favorite movies. BTW, I do keep towels in the car for emergencies.

This thread got me thinking about other dams that have disrupted the natural order in place for centuries and produced unintended consequences, which generally were not positive. Thankfully, some installations have included fish ladders, which have been successful for some populations; however, given the size of the paddlefish, I have to wonder if it would have worked for them. I did come across something interesting - problems arise for the newly spawned fish returning to the ocean to mature. They have a short window of time to make the change from fresh to salt water, and even with the presence of ladders, many perish because the trip can take too long.
 

Bert

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I'll never know this for certain, but surely the Chinese authorities knew that damming the Yangtze River would divide the fish population in half, leaving the half in the lower reaches unable to gain their spawning grounds in the upper reaches, every year. If they did this knowingly, that means they made a decision about priorities - and hydroelectric power for their masses of people won out over an amazing, ancient, powerful and successful species.
Never underestimate the ignorance of people in charge.
to get such a project going everything is pictured very positive and they leave out the bad stuff. this is by the project developers.
a lot of the politicians only know these positive thing and are convinced they are taking the right decision and moreover become selective blind to the negative stuff by critics (pessimistic people).

this is why the need for environmental assessment reports by independent experts is so important in these large projects.
 
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therium

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there is mention on the internet that although the Baiji (white Yangtze River dolphins) were declared extinct in 2006, a sighting may have been made in 2016, although this could not be scientifically confirmed, and nothing more has been heard in the last 3 years.
Here near the Great Lakes, the Asian carp is being tracked by scientists looking for feces on the river and lake bottoms. Then they do a DNA test on the feces. The carp is a problem because when food runs low it has a habit of nosing around the seaweed, and dislodging all seaweed, which is critical habitat for baby fish. Thus, all other fish tend to die off from the area without seaweed since there is no protective habitat for them.

Perhaps China could do something similar to track the paddlefish and dolphins.
 

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