Release from: Stefan Lovgren
National Geographic News
The Chinese paddlefish is a leviathan that reportedly can grow 23 feet (7 meters) long and weigh half a ton. Wei Qiwei is one of China’s foremost experts on the Chinese paddlefish, and scours the Yangtze River from his 63-foot (19-meter) rescue vessel in search of this very rare animal.
No adult Chinese paddlefish have been caught in the Yangtze River by fishers since 2003. Even more worrisome, no young paddlefish have been seen since 1995.
"When you don’t see juveniles, we think maybe there’s no spawning," said Wei, who heads a research laboratory at the Yangtze River Fisheries Research Institute in Jingzhou.
He and other experts fear that even if individual paddlefish are found in the Yangtze, the species itself, if unable to reproduce, could be on an irreversible path to extinction.
The Chinese paddlefish is also known as the elephant fish, because its long snout resembles an elephant’s trunk.