A large fish described as “vicious and carnivorous” by the two fishermen who caught it has baffled experts and frightened locals who use the river because it’s not native to the area. Fortunately, the brave fishermen kept it alive so it can be analyzed. What could it this monster be?
China’s People’s Daily Online reports that father and son Zhang Chuanzhou and Zhang Xiaogang were angling in the Yangtze River near Wuhan, Hubei Province, around 8 am on July 16th when one of them (they mysteriously don’t say which one) felt a huge tug on their line. After a struggle, they reeled in a fish measuring 7 feet long and weighing 220 pounds. They described the monster fish as being vicious and carnivorous although photos taken immediately after the catch show that both fishermen have all of their fingers. However, they had another reason to feel fearful.
The fish resembled the Chinese sturgeon (Acipenser sinensis), a critically endangered species that is strictly protected by the Chinese government, which named it a national treasure and would make it the symbol of the country if it was cuddly and had black circles around its eyes. Fortunately, it was different enough that the fishermen determined they were not breaking the law and decided to call the media instead.
After the photographs spread, one alleged expert speculated that the fish looked like a hybrid kaluga. That’s not an energy-efficient Chinese car but a combination of a nearly-extinct predatory sturgeon (the kaluga or Huso dauricus) found only in the Amur River basin in Russia and some other fish. The kaluga is definitely vicious and carnivorous, with five rows of nail-sharp teeth and a reputation (legendary but unconfirmed) for tipping fishing boats and eating fishermen. Unfortunately, the inexplicable human need for caviar has driven it and most other sturgeons to the brink of extinction.
What did these Chinese fishermen catch? Was it a hybrid kaluga spawned from a Russian sturgeon released into the Yangtze River that mated with another strange and possibly foreign species? Could it be a mutant Chinese sturgeon? The government has been attempting to breed them in an effort to save them from extinction (perhaps because banning eating caviar is against their constitution?). Is there some genetic modification involved in the process?
Will we hear anything from the local wildlife rehabilitation center that now has the creature? That most likely depends on what they find out.
Meanwhile, can we please quit eating fish eggs?