People in China have been lamenting the demise of the Chinese paddlefish after scientists declared it extinct in a research paper.
Chinese internet users and media outlets have been paying tribute to the hefty creature, whose sharp, protruding snout made it one of the largest freshwater species in the world.
“It’s farewell at first sight,” said China Youth Daily, noting that many were lamentably unfamiliar with the paddlefish before learning of its demise.
Users shared similar sentiments on the Twitter-like Weibo platform.
Named after its distinctive shape, the Chinese paddlefish, or Chinese swordfish, has a lineage dating back at least 34 million years, scientists believe.
It could grow as long as seven metres (23ft) but in the end it could not survive the overfishing, habitat fragmentation and loss of biodiversity in its native Yangtze River, according to a research paper in the Science of The Total Environment, a peer-reviewed environmental science journal.
“As no individuals exist in captivity, and no living tissues are conserved for potential resurrection, the fish should be considered extinct,” the paper said, pointing to criteria for inclusion on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.
The paper was authored by scientists from the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences, the University of Kent and the University of South Bohemia in the Czech Republic.
Chinese paddlefish populations have declined drastically since the late 1970s, the paper said.
The decline corresponds with major dam construction in the Yangtze.
During that time, the Gezhouba Dam was built on the main stream of the river, and the opening of the Three Gorges dam project followed in 2003 – the last year a live Chinese paddlefish was sighted.
A survey in 2017 and 2018 found 332 fish species in the Yangtze, but not a single specimen of Chinese paddlefish.
The researchers estimate that the fish became extinct some time between 2005 and 2010.
“The extinction of the paddlefish is a huge loss and reflects the critical status of the Yangtze River ecosystem,” said Pan Wenjing, a forest and oceans manager for Greenpeace East Asia.
“The ecology of the Yangtze River is close to collapse due to human activity in past decades,” Pan said.
“China has launched its campaign trying to recover the Yangtze River’s environment, and some ambitious policies have been introduced, such as the 10-year ban on fishing activity.”
Users on Weibo expressed the wish that a Chinese paddlefish might still resurface in the river.
“Every time I see the news of another species going extinct, my heart starts to throb,” wrote one science blogger.
“Humans should not live alone on this planet.”
We need your help ...
The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.
Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.
We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.
Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?