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Rare 'river panda' fish returned to Yangtze

Fishermen who catch a paddlefish and don't report it can face a fine
Fishermen who catch a paddlefish and don't report it can face a fine

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BEIJING, China -- An extremely rare Chinese fish, dubbed the "giant panda of the rivers", has been returned to the Yangtze River following emergency surgery after it became caught in a fisherman's net.

The heavily pregnant female paddlefish, measuring some four meters in length and weighing 150 kilograms was caught earlier this month near the city of Yibin in southwestern China.

The fisherman who caught it alerted authorities who immediately dispatched a team of special fish paramedics to treat the rare creature's injuries, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Awaiting their arrival, the fisherman took care of the fish which had injuries to its head and tail.

The fish was thought to be about 30 years old and was ready to spawn the agency said.

It was released, suitably patched up, with a tracking device attached so that marine experts could monitor its progress.

Paddlefish are extremely rare and, along with the giant panda, are near the top of China's list of endangered native species.

The species is the world's largest freshwater fish and has a cone-shaped snout that can make up close to a third of the fish's body.

Anyone found to have caught a paddlefish other than accidentally faces heavy fines and possible imprisonment.

In this case however, the fisherman involved was rewarded for his quick thinking in alerting authorities, Xinhua said, earning $241 in cash and a pat on the back from local officials.

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