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Record Number of Fish Fry Released in Yangtze

Aquatic populations in the Yangtze, China’s longest river, soared yesterday morning as millions of fish fry were released into the water to help replenish dwindling fishery stocks.


“We are pouring nearly 400 million fry of rare aquatic and commercially important fish species into the river,” said Minister of Agriculture Du Qinglin.


The move was aimed at contributing to the sustainable development of fisheries and improvement of the ecological system in the Yangtze, he said yesterday at the fry-releasing ceremony in Wuhan. The city is the capital of central China’s Hubei Province, through which one-sixth of the 6,300-kilometer river winds.


Hubei and nine other provinces and municipalities along the river released sturgeons and four species of carp farmed in China into the river yesterday.


In Wuhan alone, 10,000 artificially bred Chinese sturgeons, including 300 more than 1 meter long, were put into the river together with 10,000 carp fry.


The fry release, which coincided with World Earth Day, is the largest in recent years, said Li Jianhua, vice-director of the ministry’s Fisheries Bureau.


The 140-million-years-old Chinese sturgeon is the oldest species of fish in the Yangtze and one of the oldest vertebrates in the world. They are dubbed “living fossils” of the Yangtze River and are under top protection in China, just like giant pandas.


Geng Xianchuan, a 53-year-old Wuhan resident, said that 30 years ago local residents could see Chinese sturgeons from the deck of a ship.


Over-harvesting, dams and pollution have combined in recent years to slash the annual aquatic catch in the river to 100,000 tons, less than one-fourth of what Yangtze River Valley fishermen caught in 1954, when the take reached 427,000 tons, said bureau sources.


Historically, the Yangtze River accounts for 60 percent of China’s total annual freshwater catch. Its four species of carp--black, grass, silver and big-head--make up half of the Yangtze’s annual fish output, said Li.


To help reverse the dwindling fish populations, China has imposed a moratorium on fishing along the Yangtze for the second year, idling fishing boats on the middle and lower reaches for three months starting April 1, and banning fishing on the upper reaches of the river from February 1 to April 30.


Yang Limin, director of the Yangtze Program of the World Wildlife Fund for China, said the fry release will help publicize resource conservation and environmental protection, in addition to supplementing wild populations.


(China Daily April 23, 2004)

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