Conservationist works to save endangered freshwater fish in Kinmen

In a recent interview with CNA, a Kinmen-based conservationist detailed his ongoing work to save a species of small freshwater fish endemic to the county whose habitat is under constant threat from drought and could become extinct.

Chen Kuang-yao (???), who heads the Kinmen Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation Association (KWRCA), said the Metzia mesembrinum is a species of small cyprinid fish that is only found in the offshore county of Kinmen.

Chen, who runs a farm out of his own pocket dedicated to the conservation of this rare species of fish in Kinmen, estimates that there are currently only about 10,000 of them in the wild.

The Metzia mesembrinum is nothing special to look at and there is not much interest in ensuring it doesn't become extinct, unlike the indigenous Eurasian otter, which is protected in Kinmen, Chen said.

The fish used to inhabit rivers in Taiwan proper but disappeared in 1920, so Kinmen is now the only place in the world where it can be seen in the wild, he explained.

The population of Metzia mesembrinum on Taiwan proper became extinct due to environmental deterioration caused by water pollution, habitat destruction and the introduction of exotic fish, according to the website of the Kinmen County Fisheries Research Institute.

If they also become extinct in the wild in Kinmen, Chen said he plans to release the 300 or so freshwater fish at his farm back into the wild.

The fish are found in Guangqian stream, Chen said, noting that they also used to inhabit Doumen stream but completely disappeared from there in recent years.

Their habitat is constantly threatened, not to mention that last year Kinmen suffered its worst drought in 50 years, Chen said.

Meanwhile, Chen also notes that when local farmers drain groundwater to irrigate their crops, there is a risk that water levels in streams go too low or dry up altogether, thereby killing the fish.

The purpose of his farm is to save the fish whenever their habitat is threatened and release them back into the wild when the water level rises, Chen said.

In addition to the Metzia mesembrinum, Chen said he also keeps other rare fish species in aquariums at his farm for conservation such as the rosy bitterling.

"It is our responsibility to conserve these species, so that our next generation can know what they look like," he said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel