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Songjiang perch set to return to dinner tables

SONGJIANG perch, a tasty fish species that vanished from the city nearly 30 years ago, is expected to return to local tables this year thanks to a successful artificial breeding program.

The fish, an endangered species under state protection, will initially be served in a few selected places and the supply will be limited every year by the Ministry of Agriculture.

"We will try to persuade the government to add the perch to the menus to treat distinguished guests as the fish used to be a precious dish for VIPs in ancient China," said Wang Jinqiu, a Fudan University researcher in charge of the breeding project.

The artificial breeding project of Songjiang perch has been deemed successful by the Shanghai Agricultural Commission.

Wang led seven teams to hunt for schools of the fish in China's coastal areas in 1999 because the species had disappeared from the city's waters due to pollution and overfishing.

They discovered schools in Shandong and Liaoning provinces in 2000 and brought wild fries back to breeding farms on the city's Changxing Island.

Researchers raised the fries and tried to breed them last July. So far, 516 adult perches have been cultivated out of 2,060 bred fries. The survival rate of artificial breeding was 25 percent.

In nature, the perch lays eggs in coastal sea waters, and the fry swims back to fresh water rivers soon after hatching. In the following autumn the mature fish returns to coastal areas to reproduce.

"We have tried different water formulas - for fresh water, sea water and brackish water - to simulate the environment in the whole life cycle of the perch," Wang said.

The Shanghai Fishery Office believes Songjiang perch has a good market potential and can be served in hotels and restaurants after the fish is bred in large numbers.

A perch garden covering an area of nearly 7 hectares is being built in Songjiang. About half the garden will be open to the public to observe the fish and the rest will be used as a breeding farm.


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