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Chinese Paddlefish Is the First Animal to Be Officially Extinct in 2020

chinese paddlefish

Chinese paddlefish is the first animal in 2020, and in the new decade, to be officially declared extinct. The confirmation of this comes from Chinese researchers, according to whom we can now speak of definitive extinction. In fact, it was last sighted in 2003.

The Last Sightings of Chinese Paddlefish

The Chinese swordfish or Chinese spatula fish is also called elephant fish because of its “proboscis-like” snout. It is one of the largest freshwater specimens in the world, since it is about 23 feet long.

This type of fish once populated the waters of the Yangtze River. However, no one has been able to spot it in the last 17 years. According to Chinese researchers, it became extinct in 2005. But it would have become functionally extinct, i.e. it had not been able to reproduce since 1993. For its part, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reports that there were between 0 and 50 specimens left in the last update in 2009. But for the Chinese, by that date, they were already practically extinct.

The Causes of Extinction

Unfortunately, the Chinese paddlefish, whose Latin name is Psephurus gladius, is not the only one to have disappeared from the Yangtze River. The same thing, in fact, happened to the dolphin or baiji in 2006. Moreover, the Chinese sturgeon is also at great risk.

The reason for this? Highly stressful factors due to dam construction, overfishing, traffic, river ports and pollution. A study published in Science of the Total Environment highlights the seriousness of this situation, confirming the extinction of these animals. According to the authors of the study, the ecosystem of the Yangtze River was once home to several aquatic species. However, these elements have caused a continuous loss of biodiversity.

The river ecosystem is 4000 miles long, with over 4,000 aquatic species in its waters, and is in serious danger. This is why, after the definitive disappearance of Psephurus gladius, the Chinese government has banned commercial fishing on the Yangtze for the next 10 years. Anyway, according to experts, the Chinese paddlefish, as migratory, would have become extinct also because of the Three Gorges dam. Built in 2003, it prevented them to swim upstream for laying the eggs, and therefore reproduce.

In any case, the ban on fishing is an appropriate measure, although probably not sufficient, to prevent the Yangtze from becoming increasingly depopulated. It is indeed a key step to effectively curb the decline of the river ecosystem and any further decline in biodiversity. We must only hope it brings results before it is too late for other fish.

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