The Gezhouba Dam, completed in 1988, created an obstacle for Chinese sturgeon that attempted to migrate from the sea to spawning grounds in the freshwater reaches of the Yangtze River -- one of many impediments to the continued survival of the 240 million year-old fish.

Gezhouba Dam is one of many impediments to the survival of the Chinese sturgeon. Completed in 1988, it created an  obstacle for sturgeon attempting to migrate from the sea to spawning grounds in the freshwater reaches of the Yangtze River and its tributary river the Jinsha.

Despite years of warnings from marine scientists, the Chinese sturgeon, Acipenser sinensis, may be the first of 26 subspecies of sturgeon worldwide to face extinction. Damming, pollution, overfishing and habitat destruction are the causes. According to the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences, researchers could locate no young sturgeon migrating back to the sea, as usually occurs in August.

Postage stamp celebrating the Chinese sturgeon.

Postage stamp celebrating the Chinese sturgeon.

This is only the latest in a series of alarming reports about the 200 million year-old fish. In a 2007 story, National Geographic described efforts to save the Chinese sturgeon. But scientists now fear that mitigation initiatives were too little too late.

Sturgeon are in trouble the world over, including on the Hudson, EarthDesk’s home river. Our Atlantic sturgeon and the Chinese sturgeon are two of ten subspecies of sturgeon included on the IUCN red list of critically endangered species.

We wrote on August 10:

Overharvesting of its meat and caviar, pollution, habitat alteration, power plant intakes — the list of insults that humans have invented trump every challenge thrown in the sturgeon’s path during 2,000,000 centuries of life on Earth . . . Imagine those millennia as a twenty-four-hour clock; it has taken us less than one -tenth of a second to endanger all twenty-six subspecies of this enduring, prehistoric fish worldwide.

The UK’s The Guardian of September 15 provided an excellent summary of the Chinese sturgeon crisis.