Scientists have declared the Chinese swordfish – one of the world’s largest freshwater fish species – extinct.
The Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius), also known as the Chinese swordfish, was native to the Yangtze River – the longest river in Asia.
The species is believed to have disappeared between 2005 and 2010 and experts concluded that it is extinct after a panel of experts was arranged by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in the eastern Chinese city of Shanghai in September 2019.
The study was published in the ‘Science of the Total Environment’ journal and one of the authors, Wei Qiwei, told local media: “We respect the evaluation model and experts from the IUCN, although we accept this result with a heavy heart.”
Wei said: “Paddlefish are huge. It’s very difficult to raise them [in captivity].”
The last confirmed sighting of the Chinese paddlefish, which had been considered ‘Critically Endangered’ by the IUCN since 1996, was back in 2003.
According to studies, the species died out due to overfishing, dam-building and pollution in its natural habitat in the Yangtze River system.
IUCN experts said there has not been any imaging evidence of the Chinese swordfish since 2009.
The study said: “The Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius) was one of only two extant members of a relict lineage that was diverse and widespread between 34 and 75 million years ago.”
Researchers also said the species had probably been “functionally extinct” since 1993 as breeding pairs were too low to survive long term.
According to reports, two other species native to the Yangtze ecosystem have been declared functionally extinct, the reeves shad in 2015 and the baiji, or Yangtze River dolphin, in 2006.
The finless porpoise and the Chinese sturgeon are also on the critically endangered list, according to local media.
The Beijing government has finally taken action and a 10-year commercial fishing ban reportedly takes effect on the Yangtze this week to protect the river’s ecosystem along 332 conservation sites.
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