Psephurus gladius 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Acipenseriformes Polyodontidae

Scientific Name: Psephurus gladius (Martens, 1862)
Common Name(s):
English Chinese Paddlefish

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct) A2cd; C2a(i); D ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2009-10-24
Assessor(s): Qiwei, W.
Reviewer(s): Pourkazemi, M., Zhang, H., Du, H. & Smith, K.
The population of the Chinese Paddlefish decreased due to historical overfishing and habitat degradation. In 1981, the construction of the Gezhouba Dam in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River blocked the migration route of this species, preventing adult fish moving to the upper reaches of the river to spawn. Only two adult specimens (both females) have been recorded since 2002, despite recent surveys to re-discover the species. Juveniles were last recorded in the lower reaches of the river in 1995. It is expected that there are less than 50 mature individuals left in the wild and this species is assessed as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct), though more extensive surveys are needed in areas across the species range in order to confirm whether or not individuals of this species remain.
Date last seen: 2003
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Chinese Paddlefish is endemic to the Yangtze River (including the brackish water of the mouth) in China.
Countries occurrence:
Possibly extinct:
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:From the mid-20th century the population of the Chinese Paddlefish decreased significantly. Incidental capture data between 1982-2008 from the upper, mid and lower sections of the Yangtze River indicate the largest number of this species found during this period was in 1985, when 32 individuals were captured in the lower section (below the Gezhouba Dam) (Zhang et al. 2009). In 1995 juveniles of this species were recorded below the Gezhouba Dam of the Yangtze River (Chen 2008).

Two specimens (1.2 kg weight, 47 cm tail length; 1.3 kg weight, 50 cm tail length) were found in the Chongqing reach in 1992 (Chen 2007). In 2002, a female Chinese Paddlefish (body length 330 cm, weight 117 kg) was captured in the section of Jiangsu Nanjing, Yangtze River. Urgent attempts were made to save this individual, but it only survived in captivity for 30 days. On Jan 24th, 2003, a female (body length 352 cm) was accidentally caught in Yibin, Sichuan Province China (upper stream of Yangtze River).  It was captured, tagged with an ultra-sonic tag and released by Dr. Wei’s team of the Yangtze River Fisheries Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences. Unfortunately, after 12 hours of tracking, communication was disconnected. Between 2006 and 2008, Dr.Wei’s team used a number of boats to deploy 4,762 setlines, 111 anchored setlines and 950 drift nets covering a stretch of 412.5 km of the upper Yangtze River in a bid to catch the fish, but they failed to catch a single individual (Zhang et al. 2009). The team also used hydroacoustic equipment that beams sound through the water to create a picture of the river and anything in it. This identified nine possible targets, of which two could be paddlefish (Zhang et al. 2009). This species is considered to be the verge of extinction. Artificial reproduction has not been successful.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:0-50

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This paddlefish is considered anadromous (spends at least part of its life in the sea and migrates upriver to reproduce). This species occurs in broad surfaced main streams of large rivers, staying usually in middle and lower layers of the water column, and occasionally swims into large lakes. Its spawning period is in March and April. Spawning sites are located in the upper reaches of the Changjiang River. Available information also indicates that spawning took place in the lower Jinsha River between Shuifu and Yibin (Liu and Zeng 1988, Li et al. 1997).

The largest specimen recorded was 7 m in length and weighed over several thousand pounds.
Systems:Freshwater; Marine
Generation Length (years):9-10.5
Movement patterns:Full Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species has  historically been overfished for human consumption.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The Chinese Paddlefish has historically been overfished. The long-life history of this species (e.g. late sexual maturation and large size) means the population will take a longer time to recover from depletion.

In 1981 the Gezhouba Dam was built in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, blocking the migration route of this species and preventing adult fish moving to the upper reaches of the river to spawn.

Fries of P. gladius form schools along the river, thus becoming easily captured in traditional Chinese fishing nets and set nets (Zhang et al. 2009).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: P. gladius is listed as a first-class state protected animal in China. Due to its endemicity and rarity, this species possesses significant academic and economic importance. This species was listed on CITES Appendix II in 1998.

An integrated rescue programme was initiated in 2005. This extensive programme hopes to re-discover this species. It is also investigating habitat and plans to conduct studies on foraging behaviours and instigate captive breeding programmes, propagation for release, preservation of genetic resources, and even cloning (Zhang et al. 2009).

The “Protective Laws of Aquatic Products Resources” should be implemented and increased awareness of the significance of the protection of the species is needed (Wei Qiwei et al. 2003).

Current studies hope to investigate artificial breeding with the hope of releasing captive bred fries into rivers, ponds and reservoirs. The success of this work depends upon finding wild adult specimens.

Citation: Qiwei, W. 2010. Psephurus gladius. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T18428A8264989. . Downloaded on 18 July 2018.
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