China boosts protection of Yangtze finless porpoise

6 April 2021

In a major boost for the critically endangered Yangtze finless porpoise, the Chinese government upgraded it to national first level protected species – the country’s highest protection for wild animals. 

It was one of 65 species that were upgraded in the ‘List of National Key Protected Wild Animals’ by the State Council of China – representing the first large-scale adjustment of China’s wildlife protection list since 1989.

The decision will greatly strengthen efforts to save the iconic species, whose numbers have fallen to just over 1000, although the population appears to have stabilized recently.

From now on, anyone illegally catching or harming a Yangtze finless porpoise will face legal action. In addition, the new status will enhance efforts raise public awareness about the species and what needs to be done to safeguard its future.

WWF has warmly welcomed the announcement. WWF has been working with the authorities to conserve the Yangtze finless porpoise since 2002, including championing community protection of the species. WWF has also been involved in strengthening capacity for in-situ conservation, establishing ex-situ conservation areas, building cooperation, and generating public participation.

Real progress has been made in four key areas:

  • Creating healthy populations in ox-bow lakes, including Tian-E-Zhou, Hewangmiao/Jicheng and Xijiang;
  • Launchign mass communication campaigns, such as ‘Keep the Finless Porpoise Smiling’, ‘Watching the Finless Porpoise’ and ‘Running for the Finless Porpoise;
  • Promoting the introduction and implementation of a series of protection policies, including the ‘Yangtze River Porpoise Rescue Action Plan (2016-2025)’ – a comprehensive management plan to ban fishing on seven major tributaries and two major lakes of Yangtze River basin; and
  • Promoting collaboration through the Yangtze River Freshwater Dolphin Protection Network and the Yangtze River finless porpoise rescue alliance.

Meanwhile, based on its decades of work along the Yangtze WWF is now developing a complete Yangtze finless porpoise protection strategy, with the goal of doubling the number of wild Yangtze finless porpoises in key areas in the Yangtze by 2030.

This is all part of efforts under WWF’s global River Dolphin Rivers initiative to push for the effective protection and management of all 5 river dolphin species around the world, including developing the Conservation Assured of River Dolphin Standards (CARDS). The overall goal is to double the number of Asian river dolphins and stabilize South American river dolphins population.

A finless porpoise on the Oxbow Reserve in Tian-E-Zhou. China, an oxbow connected to the Yangtze River. This is a reserve for the endangered finless porpoise.