Yangtze Freshwater Dolphin Expedition 2006

Yangtze Freshwater Dolphin Expedition 2006

The Yangtze Freshwater Dolphin Expedition 2006 (长江淡水豚类考察) was a six-week search expedition undertaken in November and December 2006 in the city of Wuhan in central China in an attempt to locate continued proof of the existence of the endangered Baiji Yangtze Dolphin (Chinese River Dolphin). It was carried out under the direction of the Institute of Hydrobiology in Wuhan and the Swiss-based [http://baiji.org baiji.org] foundation and was notable for drawing to an end without any positive results. Thus it was announced that the species was functionally extinct.

The scientists travelled on two research vessels almost 3500 kilometres from Yichang to the nearby Three Gorges Dam, onto Shanghai and into the Yangtze Delta before retracing their path backwards. They used high-performance optical instruments and underwater microphones in an attempt to locate one of the dolphins.

The head of the baiji.org Foundation and co-organizer of the expedition, August Pfluger was reported to have said “It is possible we may have missed one or two animals”. However even if a small number were still alive, it is extremely unlikely they would be able to survive in the long-term. “It is a tragedy, a loss not only for China, but for the entire world” Pfluger said from his base in Wuhan.

Others retain some hope for the species. Wang Limin, director of the World Wildlife Fund Wuhan office said, "The fact that the expedition didn't see any baiji dolphins during this expedition does not necessarily mean that the species is extinct or even 'effectively extinct', because it covered a considerable distance in a relatively short period of time... However, we are extremely concerned. The Yangtze is highly degraded, and we spotted dramatically fewer finless porpoises than we have in the past." [" [http://releases.usnewswire.com/GetRelease.asp?id=77691 Chinese River Dolphin (Baiji) Feared Extinct, Hope Remains for Finless Porpoise"] , WWF press release, December 15 2006]

The expedition was led by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and brought together experts from international institutes like the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Hubbs-Seaworld Institute from San Diego and the Fisheries Research Agency in Japan.

A report of the expedition was published online in the journal Biology Letters on August 7 2007, in which the authors wrote: "We are forced to conclude that the baiji is now likely to be extinct, probably due to unsustainable by-catch in local fisheries..." [http://www.journals.royalsoc.ac.uk/content/15782wq480207749/?p=cd62e89fd8884abaa16a65995a093b28&pi=0]

References

External links

* [http://www.baiji.org/expeditions/1/shanghai.html The baiji Foundation] "Hope dies last"
* [http://blog.baiji.org/ Baiji blog]
* [http://www.baiji.org/expeditions/1/overview.html Baiji is functionally extinct]


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