Giant “living fossil” fish on the brink

National Geographic reports on another Chinese river-dweller struggling to survive – the giant sturgeon, also known as the “underwater panda”:

Adult sturgeons, which can measure up to 4 meters (13 feet) in length and weigh 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms), migrate from the East China Sea into the Yangtze River to spawn….

But the Yangtze’s deteriorating environment and increased shipping traffic have taken their toll on the mammoth fish.

Thirty years ago there were 2,000 spawning Chinese sturgeons in the Yangtze River every year. Now that number is down to several hundred.

The sturgeon is also highly sensitive to increased noise on the river caused by growing traffic.

In addition, Wei speculates that worsening water contamination from industrial runoff and other sources may be causing sturgeons to change their sex.

“After 1995 the ratio of male to female has totally changed,” he said. “It used to be one to one, but now there may be up to ten females for every one male.”

It’s National Geographic – there are photos and maps at the link.