Wednesday, December 26, 2012

China's Finless Porpoises in Decline

A Yangtze River porpoise

A recent survey has found that China's finless porpoises are in peril. The six-week survey was carried out along the middle and lower stretches of the Yangtze River, and concluded that fishing, pollution, and other man-made activities are driving the porpoises to extinction. The final results of the survey are expected to be announced in March 2013. However, the initial findings are of tremendous concern: The team found fewer than half of the porpoises that were seen during a similar journey in 2006, which discovered 1,225 porpoises. According to Wang Ding, the survey's chief scientist and ecologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institution of Hydrobiology (IHB), the news is devastating. The survey also discovered that a population of 450 porpoises in the Poyang Lake has been constant in the past six years, but only ninety of the animals remained in the adjoining Dongting Lake. This indicates that the Yangtze finless porpoise population has decreased by forty percent since 2006. Furthermore, this figure also means that the total number of finless porpoises in the Yangtze River basin is around 1,000-- making them rarer than giant pandas. Ding stated that overfishing has led to major decline in the porpoises' prey sources. In addition, the animals themselves are exposed to uncontrolled fishing methods such as electrofishing which involves sending electric currents into the water to stun the fish. David Dudgeon, an ecologist at the University of Hong Kong, added that pollution poses another threat to the porpoises with about twenty billion tonnes of waste being released into the Yangtze each year. Moreover, high levels of noise pollution due to shipping interfere with the animals' sonar resulting in deaths by ship strikes. Other man-made activities include building of dams, land reclamation, and sand dredging which have also contributed to significant habitat loss and degradation for the porpoises in recent decades.
Population of this finless porpoise is currently estimated to be around 1,000.

This article clearly represents that urgent action is needed to save China's wildlife. A recent study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has found that China is diminishing its ecological resources too quickly. Among the animals deeply affected are the Yangtze River porpoises. These freshwater relatives of dolphins and porpoises once numbered about 1,225 in 2006. However, that same year, it had also been confirmed that the Yangtze River dolphin was declared effectively extinct. The Yangtze River porpoises are the only surviving species of freshwater marine mammals left in China's waters. As long as overfishing, pollution, and other man-made threats continue, they will meet the same fate as the river dolphin. Therefore, it is absolutely essential to conduct serious measures to ensure the survival of these magnificent creatures. This includes better coercion of waste-discharge controls, reduction of boat traffic, and restricting the use of fishing equipment or even introducing a ban on fishing. The Yangtze River has long been regarded by the Chinese people as the "mother river." However, the river's banks are lined with large cities, factories, and power plants making it susceptible to pollution and other environmental threats. Which is why urgent action should be undertaken to prevent the river and its life from being further degraded.

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