Skeptic News: Fish endangered by Chinese Medicine

From: HuffPo Business

An endangered fish known in Chinese medicine for its healing properties was caught off the coast of the Fujian province of China last week and fetched a stunning $473,000, Business Insider reports.

The fisherman has not yet been identified, but according to a Fujian news outlet, he is reportedly an older man who had little money and plans to use the profits from the fish to buy a bigger boat.

The fisherman told the news outlet that he saw the bahaba — which weighed 80kg, or about 175 pounds — floating near the surface and was able to simply pick it up. When the man brought his catch back to shore, fishmongers started bidding on it immediately.

The bahaba fish, also known as the giant yellow croaker, is valued for its swim bladder, which is thought to help cure heart and lung ailments. As a result, the fish has been sold for large sums of money throughout the years.

In 2008, a group of anglers caught a nearly 6-foot bahaba and sold it to a local fisherman for about $2,500, Reuters reports. However, they were unaware of how just valuable their fish was. The man they sold the fish to turned around and re-sold it to a seafood restaurant for even more, and that restaurant subsequently sold it for $126,000.

In 2010, a bahaba fish believed to be 50 years old was caught and sold for about $500,000, Scientific American notes.

Chinese Bahaba is threatened by massive overfishing that continues despite legal protection in the mainland China (but not in Hong Kong); it has been listed as critically endangered.  The species was first described in western science in the 1930s and now, throughout its narrow range along part of the southern coast of China, it is rare; any large fish caught generally merit a newspaper article. From the sporadic information started in 1930s, the fishing activities targeted on the species became very intensive in 1950s and 60s principally because of the value of its swim bladder for medicinal purposes.

Although listed under Grade II State Protection, the Chinese bahaba is caught and sold illegally. It is estimated that there are about 30 fleets operating around the Pearl River estuary targeting on the species (Lu and Ye 2002), annual catch is over 2,500 kg. Because of the high value of a single fish, fishing continues even though population numbers are very low.

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