Yangtze porpoise to follow Yangtze River dolphin into oblivion?01/04/2013 15:45:57 Yangtze finless porpoise population nosedives to 1,000
April 2013. The Yangtze finless porpoise population has declined to a mere 1,000 individuals, making the endangered species even more rare than the wild giant panda, according to the 2012 Yangtze Freshwater Dolphin Survey Report.
Population disappearing fast
The report comes after a 44-day and 3,400-kilometre round-trip research expedition on the Yangtze River between Yichang in Hubei Province and Shanghai. Led by China's Ministry of Agriculture and organized by the Institute of Hydrobiology (IHB) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, WWF and the Wuhan Baiji Dolphin Conservation Fund, the expedition first set sail on 11 November 2012.The crew visually identified 380 individual Yangtze finless porpoise in the river's mainstream during the 2012 survey. Based on this observation, scientists determined through analyses that the population in the Yangtze mainstream is about 500, down from 1,225 in 2006.
In October 2012, research was carried out in two adjoining lakes, the Poyang and Dongting, where the population was about 450 and 90, respectively, according to the report. In a sharp contrast, 851 individuals of Yangtze finless porpoise were visually identified in the mainstream of the Yangtze during the 2006 survey. That research, however, did not cover the two lakes.
"The species is moving fast toward its extinction," said Wang Ding, head of the research expedition and a professor at the IHB. Attempts to find traces of the Baiji Dolphin, another rare cetacean and close relative of the finless porpoise, failed during the 2012 survey. The Baiji dolphin was declared "functionally extinct."
According to data captured by acoustic equipment onboard the observation ships, the largest numbers of finless porpoise were found in the river sections east of Wuhan, with 67 percent recorded between Hukou in Jiangxi Province and Nanjing in Jiangsu Province, the report shows.
There is a notable sign of scattered distribution pattern which could be the result of "shipping traffic that made migration harder, projects that altered hydrological conditions in the middle and lower reaches and habitat loss," said Wang with the IHB.
"They may risk their lives for rich fish bait resources there. But busy shipping traffic close to the port areas poses a threat to the survival of finless porpoise," said Wang.
"Lack of fishery resources and human disturbances including shipping traffic are among the key threats to the Yangtze finless porpoise survival," Lei Gang, director of freshwater programme at WWF-China, said.
Some hope and more threats
A set of enhanced measures that include in-situ conservation and ex-situ conservation approaches are essential for efforts of saving the species from its distinction, said Lei. Given that, the report calls for all-year-round fishing ban for all river dolphin reserves, establishment of a national reserve in Poyang Lake and ex-situ conservation reserves along the Yangtze.