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Ocean Park Reaches New Milestone on the Conservation of Aquatic Wildlife in Yangtze River with National Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Association

2010-04-22

Satellite Tracking Project Sheds Light on Movements of Chinese Sturgeons to Facilitate Conservation Work

(April 22, 2010 Xiamen) On this Earth Day today, a release ceremony was held in Xiamen, which saw 108 Chinese sturgeons released into the Jiulongjiang Estuary, including four attached with satellite tracking tags. The satellite tracking project is sponsored by Ocean Park through its conservation arm, Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong (OPCFHK), and aims to study the movements and behaviors of Chinese sturgeons in the wild to facilitate conservation work for the species.

The project represents an important milestone in the study of Chinese sturgeons in China. Fully sponsored by OPCFHK, each of the four Chinese sturgeons which returned to the Xiamen Chinese Sturgeon Breeding Centre last year was fitted with a satellite tracking tag. These tags will collect data for a pre-set period of time, usually between three months to one year, after which the tags will detach from the fish, float to the water surface and relevant data will be uploaded to a satellite. A map of the fish’s movements can be constructed upon in-depth analyses of the information obtained to allow greater understanding of their natural behaviors and movements in the marine environment. OPCFHK will share the data collected with its conservation partners to promote conservation efforts.

The 108 Chinese sturgeons released today are 4-5 years in age and weigh between 20-30 kg. The four sturgeons which earlier returned from Hong Kong was each fitted with a satellite tracking tag, while the remaining 104 were all fitted with a PIT tag.

Another spotlight on this remarkable day are the ten Chinese sturgeons, including the three that are returning to Ocean Park and seven which are new gifts from the National Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Association and Yangtze River Fisheries Research Institute, will be making their way to Hong Kong. These Chinese sturgeons will be displayed in the new Chinese Sturgeon Aquarium – Yangtze Exploration. They are on the way to Hong Kong today and will undergo a one-month quarantine upon arrival at Ocean Park. They will join other unique freshwater species from the Yangtze River such as Chinese suckers, largemouth bronze gudgeons, Chinese spined barbs and white barbel fish as conservation ambassadors to promote important conservation messages about aquatic life in the Yangtze River, as well as the importance of conserving water resources.

The ten Chinese Sturgeons coming to Hong Kong range from 2 – 10 years old and are 0.8m – 2.0m in length (0.8m x 2, 1.2m x 2, 1.5- 1.6m x 3, 1.8m x 2 and 2.0m x 1). Sturgeons’ sex remains undetermined until they have fully matured by age 12 – 15. Even at that point, it is not discernable through exterior appearance and can only be confirmed through dissection or ultrasound.

The Central Government placed great significance on the Chinese sturgeon presentation cum 2010 Xiamen Chinese sturgeon release ceremony today. Chairman of National Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Association, Mr. Li Yan Liang; Deputy Director, Regional Bureau of East China Sea Fishery Management, Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Ma Yi; Professor Wei Qi Wei, Director of the Yangtze River Fisheries Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Fisheries Science and a number of other officials attended the ceremony. Ocean Park Chief Executive, Mr. Tom Mehrmann, and other members of Ocean Park management were also present at today’s ceremony.

Mr. Tom Mehrmann, Chief Executive of Ocean Park said, “Through OPCFHK, Ocean Park has committed significant resources to the conservation of giant pandas, Chinese white dolphins, Chinese alligators and other endangered Chinese animal species. Today, we are very happy to be joining hands with OPCFHK and the National Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Association to continue our conservation research project with the Chinese sturgeons using satellite-tracking technology. Ocean Park’s new Chinese Sturgeon Aquarium – Yangtze Exploration simulates the actual habitat along the Yangtze River and showcases Chinese sturgeons as well as other unique Yangtze species. We will provide fun and engaging ways for guests to learn more about the wonderful biodiversity in the Yangtze River, and to appreciate China’s tireless conservation efforts for the River and other freshwater resources.”

Mr. Li Yan Liang said, “We are glad to join hands with Ocean Park to take this monumental step and bring our cooperation to the next level as we release 108 sturgeons into the ocean. Since 2008, we have developed an excellent partnership with Ocean Park in conservation and educating the public about Mainland aquatic wildlife. Together we have shared invaluable experience in the research studies on Chinese sturgeons. With Ocean Park’s excellent platform of resources and facilities, we are presenting Chinese sturgeons and the Yangtze wildlife to the world. ”

Dr. Wei said, “This satellite tracking project is a breakthrough in the conservation and improving the sustainability of Chinese sturgeons. We would like to thank OPCFHK for their sponsorship and for making this happen. The data collected will help us understand the natural behaviors and movements of human-bred Chinese sturgeons in the open sea, and will mark a new chapter in the effective conservation of this species.”

The multi-million dollar renovation of the Chinese Sturgeon Aquarium starts with an extensive representation of the natural heritage along Yangtze River displayed outside the new exhibition. Greeting the guests as they enter the exhibit is a unique water screen made of water droplets with special lighting effects. As guests venture into the exhibit, they will encounter Chinese sturgeons and other distinctive freshwater species, appearing in Hong Kong for the first time, in an environment simulating their actual habitats along the Yangtze River. Guests may choose to contribute to the conservation efforts of the Yangtze River by making a donation to Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong. Through a series of engaging educational programs and materials, guests will also have the opportunity to learn more about the importance of water conservation.

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Photo 1: Release ceremony
Photo 1: Release ceremony
Photo 2: Satellite tracking tag
Photo 2: Satellite tracking tag
Photo 3: Chinese Sturgeon Aquarium – Yangtze Exploration
Photo 3: Chinese Sturgeon Aquarium – Yangtze Exploration