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Rapid Decline Trend of Yangtze Finless Porpoise's Population Has Been Restrained, Surveys Show

Aug 02, 2018     Email"> PrintText Size

The results of Yangtze Finless Porpoise Expedition 2017 (YFPE 2017) was officially released by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs on July 24, 2018, which is of great significance to the protection of Yangtze finless porpoise as well as the entire Yangtze River ecosystem. 

Carried out by Institute of Hydrobiology (IHB) of Chinese Academy of Sciences, the YFPE 2017 spent 52 days in investigating 1,669 km of the Yangtze River from Yichang to Shanghai and the appended Dongting and Poyang lakes. It showed that the rapid decline trend in the number of the Yangtze finless porpoise has been restrained, but the extremely endangered status of the population has not been changed. The protection situation is still grim. 

According to the results, the total population abundance of the Yangtze finless porpoise in 2017 was estimated to be approximately 1,012 - including 445 in the mainstream of the Yangtze River - a slight decrease but not significantly changed compared with that in 2012. 

The current status of population patchiness of the Yangtze finless porpoises has not changed significantly, tending to concentrate on river sections that are less disturbed by humans and better habitats. 

Besides, the YFPE 2017 conducted surveys on habitat quality including environmental factors such as water quality. The results showed that the water quality of the main habitat of the Yangtze finless porpoise is acceptable and would not significantly affect the long-term survival of the population. The habitat quality of Poyang Lake is relatively better than Dongting Lake whereas the main stream is relatively poor. 

“The Yangtze finless porpoise in the main channel prefers the habitats with natural slopes and gentle currents, showing the characteristics of distribution around the sandbar. However, due to the direct or indirect effect of human activities - the illegal fishing and busy shipping in particular, these important habitats were being destroyed and the quality of the coastal habitat generally becomes worse." said Prof. WANG Ding from IHB. 

To better protect the Yangtze finless porpoise, experts from IHB suggested that more attentions should be paid to the management and construction of nature reserves besides the restoration and protection of the aquatic habitats, and the practice of ex-situ reserve of the Yangtze finless porpoise should be continued and the ex-situ individuals should be released into nature at proper time when the natural habitat is getting better.

Other measures include the establishment of a rescue, collection and filing system for the casualties, building up of a real-time field monitoring and early warning network, as well as being more open to public participation in the protection of the Yangtze finless porpoise. 

The YFPE 2017 was the latest full-scale scientific expedition after the Yangtze Freshwater Dolphins Expedition in 2006 and 2012 conducted by IHB. 

Supervised by the National Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Association, the YFPE 2017 was under the leadership of Yangtze River Basin Fishery Supervision and Management Office and Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. The expedition team included participants from major research institutions of Yangtze River cetaceans, relevant nature reserves in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, local fishery administrations, related NGOs and volunteers. 


(Editor: LIU Jia)



Institute of Hydrobiology

E-mail: wangd@ihb.ac.cn

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