China Rescues 100yo Rare Fish For Breeding Programme

CENPublished: May 22, 2018
Published: May 22, 2018

By John Feng

A critically endangered kaluga sturgeon believed to be over 100 years old and weighing over half a tonne has been saved by a conservation agency after being accidentally caught by fishermen.

The rare kaluga (huso dauricus) - which is only found in the Amur River Basin between China and Russia - has been hunted to near extinction for its roe.

In a bid to increase the chances of the surviving population, officials on both sides of the border have set up patrols to catch poachers and introduced tough fines for anyone caught deliberately capturing the fish.

In a further bid to deter poachers, as well as to punish those who try to illegally sell the fish on the black market, they also offer to purchase mature specimens for their breeding programme at market rates – and as a result the fish believed to be a century old is now recovering at a Chinese government breeding centre.

Catching a kaluga is no easy task, with the predatory fish, which traditionally feast on salmon, known to be extremely aggressive, and there are reports of them even toppling fishing boats and drowning fishermen.

The huge fish is the largest the government conservation programme has purchased in 20 years, according to its director, Zhu Zhu, weighing in at 514 kilogrammes (1,133 lbs), which netted the fishermen the princely sum of 25,700 GBP.

The 3.59-metre (11-foot 9-inch) long female sturgeon was caught by three anglers in the Amur River near the city of Fuyuan in the Chinese province of Heilongjiang, which is also the Amur River’s Chinese name.

Experts believed the kaluga to be more than 100 years old and estimated that it contains more than 100 kilogrammes (220 lbs) of roe, making it a valuable addition to the city’s artificial propagation and release station.

"It’s proof that recent river conservation efforts have supported the kaluga population," Zhu said.

The kaluga, which was injured during its capture, has been transferred to a temporary tank where it will be given time to recover with the help of caretakers.

"Once fully healthy, it will be used for our artificial propagation programme," Zhu said, adding that the animal’s eggs once attached will either be used in further breeding efforts or released into the wild.

The Amur River is home to four species of sturgeon.

The kaluga, listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List.

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