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July 25, 2010

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Lakes project will bring new life to the Yangtze

The Ministry of Agriculture and the Worldwide Fund for Nature have embarked on a massive project to reconnect 40 lakes along the Yangtze River's middle and lower reaches to restore an ecological system blocked by dams and floodgates.

The 40 lakes are expected to be reconnected to the Yangtze from June to October, the major fish breeding period, for fish to migrate between river and lakes and build a complete and healthy ecosystem, officials said when a weeklong program on protecting aquatic life in Yangtze River kicked off at the Expo site yesterday.

Endangered species such as the giant salamander and Chinese sturgeon were on display at the WWF Pavilion yesterday, while immature typical river fish and Chinese sturgeon were released into the Yangtze River mouth by officials and scientists to raise local biodiversity.

"It is such a long-term task to better and recover the deteriorating Yangtze River and its fish resources," said Cao Wenxuan from the Institute of Hydrobiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. "Overfishing, pollution and too many dams have seriously harmed the river and its fish. The improper fishing of immature fish is extremely harmful to fish resources and ecosystem. Many farmers just use the baby fish as feedstuff, since they are too small to eat."

Most of the dams and floodgates were built 20 years ago and the long-term blockages have resulted in lower fish quality and the virtual elimination of some species.

Global climate change also threatens aquatic life in the Yangtze River, officials from the Regional Bureau of the East China Sea Fisheries Management in Shanghai, said.

The authorities began the lake-river reconnection project in April, by suggesting and directing regional governments to open dams and floodgates in spring and summer, allowing fish to migrate between river and lakes.

"The poor awareness about the need to protect fish in the Yangtze River and regional governments' focus on short-term economic income are barriers for the river protection and ecosystem recovery," Cao said. "The authorities should develop appropriate eco-compensation projects to reduce and even reverse injury to the river and its aquatic life, crucial for human survival and development."

The ministry yesterday honored the WWF, HSBC Holdings Plc, Shanghai Haisheng Aquatic Equipment Co, scientist Cao and Zheng Jinliang, an entrepreneur developing balloon fish and releasing immature fish into the Yangtze River, for their devotion to the protection of aquatic life.

Teresa Au from HSBC said the company had invested more than 100 million yuan (US$14.7 million) setting up the Yangtze Conservation Network and the Water Source Protection project to help mitigate the impact of climate change on the river.


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