Once a delicacy eaten by Chinese emperors, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish just went extinct.
Nicknamed the “water tiger” and “panda of the Yangtze,” the Chinese paddlefish is reportedly dead after surviving 150 million years, according to a new study in the Science of The Total Environment.
The paddlefish’s extinction is the latest to cause researchers to sound a global alarm bell on the dangers of overfishing and habitat fragmentation.
Researchers conducting a year-long survey of the Yangtze River identified more than 330 fish species but did not find a single specimen of paddlefish, which resembles a swordfish. They also could not locate any of 140 fish species typically found in the river, and most are considered highly endangered, the study said.
Chinese paddlefish populations began to decline drastically in the late 1970s as a result of overfishing and habitat fragmentation, the study said. The fish went functionally extinct (could not reproduce) in 1993 before disappearing completely sometime between 2005 and 2010, the study said. The last live specimen was observed in 2003.
“The delayed extinction of Chinese paddlefish resulted from multiple threats, suggesting that optimizing conservation efforts on endangered Yangtze fauna is urgently needed,” the researchers wrote.
Scientists say that two other species native to the river, the reeves shad and the Yangtze River dolphin (or baji), have also gone extinct.