For about 200 million years — way back to when dinosaurs were alive — paddlefish swam in China’s Yangtze River, the longest river in Asia.
After surviving through tons of changes over so many years the fish couldn’t live through all of the damage done by humans to their Yangtze River home.
After five years of searching for the fish scientists recently said none of the Chinese paddlefish can be found alive. This is known as extinction. The only place to see one now will be in a museum display or photos.
Two of Montana’s rivers, the Missouri and Yellowstone, are home to a different paddlefish. Luckily the species is doing well enough in the United States that you can even fish for them if you buy a tag. This is thanks to the hard work of fish biologists and the people who enforce environmental laws that keep our waters free from pollution.
China, on the other hand, is not known for having laws to protect its environment. Chinese fishermen also caught too many of the big fish because no laws prevented them from taking too many. The last nail in the fish’s coffin was when a large dam was built in the 1980s that kept the fish from swimming upstream to the places they used to lay their eggs.
The Chinese paddlefish was also known as the Chinese swordfish because of its long nose. The largest one ever measured was 23 feet long and weighed almost 1,000 pounds. Very few fish that live in freshwater get that big.
The largest paddlefish ever caught in Montana weighed 142 pounds.