The Chinese Sturgeon Museum, located on an islet in the Huangbo
River in the Yiling District of the city of Yichang, is part of the
Chinese Sturgeon Research Center, an institution that is dedicated
to the preservation of rare fishes living in the Yangtze River. The
museum displays all the life-cycle stages of the Chinese sturgeon,
as well as 10 different species of sturgeon from around the world.
The Chinese sturgeon is one of the oldest species of fish in China,
having existed for about 140 million years (not surprisingly, the
Caspian Sea, which borders on Russia and Iran, and which is home to
the species of sturgeon that produces that highly-prized commodity,
caviar, is the oldest sea on earth). The sturgeon has adapted well
to its various habitats. As long as those habitats do not
disappear, or become inhabitable, the sturgeon will continue to
thrive. The Chinese sturgeon, thanks to efforts by the government
of the PRC, the Chinese sturgeon continues to thrive.
The Chinese sturgeon has been dubbed "The King of Fishes" in the
Yangtze River because of its size. An adult sturgeon can reach more
than 5 meters in length and weigh over 500 kilograms. The female
Chinese sturgeon first becomes sexually mature at the age of 14,
which itself poses a threat to the survival of the species.
A female Chinese sturgeon lays about a million eggs at one time,
although only roughly 10% will survive (the overabundance of eggs
provides sustenance to a number of other creatures in the river, of
course). Unfortunately, of the one hundred thousand eggs that do
survive, only a handful of the hatched surgeon fingerlings will
survive the crucial first stages.
When one adds these odds to the fact that a female surgeon first
becomes sexually mature at the age of 14, provided that she
survives that long, one can appreciate the vulnerability of this
Although the Chinese sturgeon lives mainly in the shallow sea along
China's southeastern coastline, it spawns in the Yangtze River.
Each year from summer to autumn, schools of Chinese sturgeon
migrate from the shallow coastal sea areas to the upper reach of
Yangtze, where they match in the river and spawn.
Amazingly, they remain with their offspring until the latter have
grown to about 15 centimeters, then mother fish and fingerlings
swim back to the sea together , which contrasts with most known
fish species which lay their eggs and depart immediately. However,
the construction of Gezhou Dam on the Yangtze has blocked the
sturgeon's migration route.
To minimize the potentially devastating effect of the dam on the
fish population, the Chinese government ordered the establishment
of a research center in 1982 whose primary focus would be the
preservation of the Chinese Sturgeon. Much work has since been done
by the Chinese Sturgeon Research Center to compensate for the
negative effect of Gezhou Dam on the sturgeon's spawning habits.
Over 40 thousand juvenile fish (15 centimeters or longer) have been
released at the mouth of the Yangtze River since 1984. These
juvenile fish migrate first to the aforementioned shallow coastal
areas, then return when sexually mature in order to spawn. They are
then captured, the females "milked" of their eggs and the males of
their sperm, then the eggs are hatched at the research center's
hatchery, to be released at the mouth of the Yangtze when the
fingerlings have reached the required length of 15 centimeters.