A Chinese paddlefish. (File photo: Global Tines)
Chinese netizens were saddened by the news that the Chinese paddlefish, one of the world's largest freshwater fish species, was declared extinct by scientists.
Many have called for urgent protection measures to save other endangered species from extinction.
A paper released on the online edition of international journal Science of The Total Environment showed that the Chinese paddlefish, measuring up to seven?meters in length, may have become extinct between 2005 and 2010. The paddlefish became functionally extinct in 1993.
The paper, jointly written by Chinese experts from the Yangtze River Fisheries Research Institute and two international experts, said that the Chinese paddlefish was once common in the Yangtze River, but its population had declined dramatically since the late 1970s as a result of overfishing and habitat fragmentation.
The paddlefish, which existed for 150 million years, could grow to 5,000 kilograms in weight.
Its extinction declaration follows the classifications of the Yangtze River dolphin, a type of freshwater dolphin, and the Reeves shad, a freshwater fish, as functionally extinct.
Wei Qiwei, one of the paper's authors, told the Chutian Metropolis Daily that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimated in September 2019 that the unique and first-class protected fish had become extinct before its declaration. He said that experts respected the assessment from the IUCN, but the result left them heavy-hearted.
Chinese netizens were dismayed upon hearing the news. The topic "extinction of the Chinese paddlefish" had been viewed more than 490 million times on Sina Weibo as of press time.
Many netizens commented that they were sad they had never seen the Chinese paddlefish before it disappeared forever.
Some said the extinction has rung a bell, and called on other netizens to join the campaign to protect endangered species.
The paper also suggested that conservation efforts to protect endangered Yangtze fauna are urgently needed.
On January 1, China began a 10-year fishing ban in key areas of the Yangtze River to protect biodiversity in the country's longest river, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.
Chinese netizens applauded the ban, saying they hope it will save more endangered fish from extinction.