Giant Chinese Paddlefish First Species Of 2020 Declared Extinct

by : Cameron Frew on : 07 Jan 2020 13:47
Giant Chinese Paddlefish First Species Of 2020 Declared ExtinctShutterstock

We’re a week into the new year and a species has already been declared extinct: the giant Chinese paddlefish. 

In 1996, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared the species ‘critically endangered’, noting that they were likely ‘functionally extinct’ since 1993 – basically, this means there wasn’t a fruitful enough population for further breeding or contribution to ecological environment.


Unfortunately, the IUCN hasn’t had any image evidence of the species since 2009, having been last seen alive in 2003. Experts believe they died out sometime between 2005 and 2010.

Yangtze RiverPA Images

The giant Chinese paddlefish was one of the largest freshwater fish in the world. It’s the third species known to inhabit the Yangtze River – the longest river in Asia and third-longest in the world, at 3,915 miles – to go extinct in recent years after the the Yangtze River dolphin in 2006, and reeves shad in 2015.

Explaining the factors causing the downfall of species in the river, authors of a study published in Science of the Total Environment wrote: 


The mega river ecosystem of the Yangtze River was once home to diverse aquatic megafauna but is increasingly affected by various anthropogenic stressors that have resulted in continuous loss of biodiversity. Based on 210 sightings of Chinese paddlefish during the period 1981-2003, we estimated the timing of extinction to be by 2005, and no later than by 2010.

Wei Qiwei, a co-author on the study from the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences in Wuhan, said, as per the South China Morning Post: ‘We respect the evaluation model and experts from the IUCN, although we accept this result with a heavy heart.’

Giant Chinese Paddlefish 2Shutterstock

The river is known to host more than 4,000 aquatic species – however, due to the likes of dams, overfishing, river ports, and pollution, fish populations continue to dwindle.


The giant Chinese paddlefish was part of a lineage that dates back 75 million years. At nearly 12ft long and weighing 250kg, they were heavy suckers, earning themselves the title of ‘king of freshwater fish’.

Yangtze River FishPA Images

In response to the recent declaration, Beijing is taking firm action with a 10-year ban on commercial fishing along the river, covering 332 conservation sites along the Yangtze and the main river course.

It’s hoped the moratorium will ‘curb the decline of the river’s ecosystem and any further drop in biodiversity’, allowing stocks to replenish over time, according to vice-minister of agriculture and rural affairs Yu Zhenkang.


If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

Most Read StoriesMost Read


Putin Brands Transgender Education As ‘Close To A Crime Against Humanity’

Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: Animals, China, Extinction, fish, Sealife


ScienceDirect and 1 other
  1. ScienceDirect

    Science of The Total Environment

  2. South China Morning Post

    Chinese paddlefish, native to the Yangtze River, declared extinct by scientists