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Authorities have legal duty to protect endangered species

China Daily | Updated: 2018-11-19 07:56
Chinese sturgeon are kept in a pool used for artificial breeding at the Chinese Sturgeon Research Institute, in Yichang, Hubei province. ZHANG GUORONG/FOR CHINA DAILY

China's largest Chinese sturgeon breeding base in Jingzhou, Hubei province, reported that the fish that belongs to the valuable first generation of its artificial breeding population started dying on Friday, and 36 had died by Saturday. The base also revealed that the second generation sturgeons began dying in large numbers from September, and nearly 6,000 had died by Nov 5. The Paper.cn comments:

Regretfully, the collective death of the rare fish, which according to an investigation by the Hubei fisheries bureau is due to the noise, vibration and water disturbance caused by a nearby construction project, is continuing. It is a heavy loss.

The Jingzhou base boasts 60 percent of the first generation of artificially bred Chinese sturgeons, the number of which is fewer than 1,000 nationwide. The first generation is deemed to be the most valuable as they are the closest genetically to their parents which were fish caught in the river.

The Hubei aquatic products bureau's investigation showed in September, the construction project owned by local district government has apparently affected the living environment of the fish, which are extremely sensitive to noise, vibrations and even minor changes to the aquatic conditions. Yet that finding fell on deaf ears, and the project was not suspended.

The Chinese sturgeon, a critically endangered anadromous fish, is found only in the Yangtze River and the sea area close to its river mouth. Termed as "national treasure", its numbers have declined precipitously due to habitat loss and overfishing.

Through decades of efforts, China has succeeded in artificially breeding this species, and seeks to increase the population in the wild through introducing young fish to the Yangtze, where the fish have bred for more than 150 million years.

The district government, which was cooperative in the negotiation with the bureau, claims the project is legal and the construction is conducted according to the law, and has claimed the loss is due to the breeding base's poor management.

It is a pity that none of the higher authorities responsible for the conservation of endangered species, which is protected by the law, have come forward to hold the responsible parties accountable and seek ways to protect the fish that are still alive.

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