A fishy museum in China

I love a good museum and relish the opportunity to wander amongst the displays to learn about the history and culture of the area I am visiting.  I have a particular fondness for museums which are specifically feature a particular subject for examination, such as the Chinese Sturgeon Museum which is a part of the Chinese Sturgeon Garden that is located in Xiaoxita Town, in Yichang of Hubei Province, China.

Most people visit the city of Yichang to see the massive Three Gorges Dam, so if you want to avoid the crowds, concentrate instead on the humble Chinese Sturgeon Museum.

The museum was set up in 1993 by the Chinese Sturgeon Research Institute. This institute aims to preserve the rare species of Chinese sturgeon that includes 27 species of sturgeon that still exist in the world.

One of the oldest species of bony fish, sturgeon are native to subtropical, temperate and sub-Arctic rivers, lakes and coastlines of Eurasia and North America.  Because of their long reproductive cycle, long migrations, and sensitivity to environmental conditions, many species are under severe threat from over-fishing, pollution, poaching and the damming of rivers, which is why having a Sturgeon Museum right next to one of the world’s biggest dams is ironic.

Chinese sturgeon, also known as Green Sturgeon, is a kind of migrating fish which is estimated to have lived on the earth for 140 million years.  So old, in fact, that it is called the “living fossil”.

Chinese sturgeon is the king of the freshwater fish for it is the largest and lives the longest. An adult sturgeon can be more than 4 meters (about 13 feet) long and weigh in excess of 500 kilograms (about 1,102 pound). A mature Chinese sturgeon, over 14 years old for the female sturgeon, can lay about 0.3 million to 1.3 million eggs at one time; unfortunately, more than 90% of these eggs will become the dinner of other fish, such as the bronze gudgeon and the yellow catfish. Therefore, the considerable reduction in the number of this specie makes it a highly prized.     

Every year, from summer to autumn, a school of Chinese sturgeon, migrating to the upper reaches of Yangtze River from the shallow sea area out of the Yangtze River estuary, will lay eggs in their hometown.

Because of the building of the Three Gorges Dam the sturgeon’s migration has been obstructed.

As a result, Chinese sturgeon have lost their spawning area for reproducing offspring which has also put the survival of Chinese sturgeon at risk. In 1982 the Chinese government set up a major institution to protect the precious rare species, and to research the reproduction of the rare Chinese sturgeon in order to preserve them. From 1984, 4.44 million young Chinese sturgeon have been put into the Yangtze River. Since 1988 in order to provide the species with even greater protection, the Chinese sturgeon has been upgraded and has received a state-protected animal classification.

The Sturgeon Museum is open all year round, take Bus 4, 100 or 101 to the Chinese Sturgeon Research Institute Station.

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