Until early this century, the Yangtze River was home to two freshwater cetaceans – the Yangtze river dolphin and the Yangtze finless porpoise.
Sadly, the Yangtze river dolphin, or baiji, was declared extinct in 2006, as a combination of overfishing, pollution, loss of habitat, collisions with boats and other human activities took their toll. The Yangtze finless porpoise faces similar threats – but we're determined to make sure it doesn’t suffer the same fate.
Just over 1,000 porpoises remain in the Yangtze River and the adjoining Dongting and Poyang lakes, and their population has been dropping alarmingly. The population in the mainstream of the river is in particular danger, with only around 500 left. With economic development in the area continuing at a rapid pace, the pressure on porpoises is increasing all the time. Their population could drop to below 250 in the next 5 years without urgent action.
The good news is that the Chinese government has made conserving the Yangtze River ecosystem a national priority – and the porpoise can become a symbol of the river’s health.
We’ve just launched a new 10 year strategy to save the Yangtze finless porpoise. We’ll be working with the government and local people to:
- protect key habitats for porpoises and the fish they feed on
- ensure river flows can support porpoises and fish populations
- prevent illegal and unsustainable fishing
- provide sustainable alternative livelihoods for fishers and other local people in important porpoise sites, to increase fish populations and improve water quality. We've also been advocating a fishing ban in the Yangtze
- reduce pollution from agriculture and industry
- reduce the impact of shipping and other activities on porpoise habitat and fish spawning grounds
- lobby and support the government to create a set of oxbows so that porpoises can be moved to safer areas
- support breeding programmes to improve genetic diversity