Huangshi migration: the saga of a fish's life

Huangshi migration: the saga of a fish's life

June 29, 2022, in Qinghai Province, Haibei Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gangcha County, Quanji River, Huangshi fish are migrating. (Photo by Zhang Haidong)

Its home, in Qinghai Lake

Blue lake, high cold, and saline

Although it is an inland lake, it has the vastness of the sea

Its hometown is the Yellow River

Maybe it's the nostalgia for the hometown, maybe it's the bloodline that has long been used to trekking

Every year, it goes upstream to follow the footsteps of its ancestors and to continue the legend of life

Huangshui, scientific name "Qinghai Lake naked carp", is a rare species unique to Qinghai Lake, is also the Qinghai Lake "water - fish - bird" ecosystem in the core species.

The blue waves of Qinghai Lake, connected to the Qilian Mountains in the north and looking at the source of three rivers in the south, is not only a wetland of international importance and an important place for biodiversity conservation in the world, but also an important ecological barrier in China. Its unique aquatic resources, represented by the Qinghai Lake naked carp, have attracted the world's attention.

Every year when the Salix flowers bloom in the wind on the shores of Qinghai Lake, it means the arrival of the Huangs migratory season. Flocks of Huangs, staged "fish soar shallow, struggling to migrate" spectacle, let countless people watching the fish feel the life of the hard and tenacious.

Once "fish thriving", due to the late 1950s and early 1960s overfishing, as well as climate change led to habitat deterioration and other reasons, Huangsheng fish resources declined sharply, once on the verge of extinction. As China's important ecological barrier, Qinghai Lake once no Huangs, its "water - fish - bird" ecosystem will face collapse, Qinghai Lake will lose the aura and vitality, into a sea of death.

In the past 40 years, Qinghai Province has implemented six fishery closures and has continued to carry out artificial stocking over the past 20 years, which has led to a significant recovery of the naked carp resource in Qinghai Lake, which has now reached 33.9% of the initial resource. The lake is now at 33.9% of its initial level of development. The fish and birds are living in harmony with nature, and the lake continues to be an important ecological barrier in China.


Huangshi, with a legendary life.

Qinghai Lake, the largest lake in China, is located in the northeastern part of the Tibetan Plateau, 150 kilometers west of Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province. Today, we see Qinghai Lake as an inland closed lake surrounded by mountains and located in the Qinghai Lake basin. In fact, Qinghai Lake did not look like this at the beginning.

According to the "Qinghai Lake Comprehensive Investigation Report" of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Qinghai Lake is a neotectonic fault trap lake. At the beginning of its formation, 200,000-2 million years ago, Qinghai Lake was an outflowing freshwater lake and was connected to the Yellow River system. At the end of the Pliocene, due to geological tectonic movement, the Sun and Moon Mountains in the east of Qinghai Lake rose strongly, which forced the inverted river, which was originally injected into the Yellow River, to flow into Qinghai Lake from east to west.

In the formation process of Qinghai Lake, the original Yellow River carp living in the Yellow River, after a long period of evolution, gradually become a large plateau primitive fish living in Qinghai Lake - Huangshui, and formed an independent dominant population.

"From the Huangs shoulder residual scales and degraded scales near the anus, its ancestors were scaly." Qinghai University professor Li Changzhong said, in the long evolutionary process, Huangshi gradually adapted to the alpine, tolerate salinity, faded scales, also formed a migratory such characteristics.

Li Changzhong said, the ancient Qinghai Lake was once connected with the Yellow River, so the Huangs have a common origin with the fish of the upper Yellow River, and can find its corresponding species or similar species in the fish of the upper Yellow River. Just because the river and lake were separated after, with the environmental conditions change, only gradually formed the Qinghai Lake in the unique Huangshi.

"Interestingly, someone had caught a few Huangs with scales in the lake, which indicates that it has signs of return." Li Changzhong said.

The legend of Huangshi is not only in the body, but also in it is "life-saving fish". Now, in the Shaliu River Huanghuang home, there is a stone monument, engraved on the "Huanghuang Fu" written: "unforgettable famine years, Huanghuang sacrifice to save the people, can be called the grace fish."

Huangshi as a delicious food, has saved the lives of many people. In the Atomic City Memorial Hall in Xihai Town, Haiyan County, Haibei Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, which is located on the north shore of Qinghai Lake, there is a record about the former Factory 221 organizing personnel to fish in Qinghai Lake during the three years of natural disasters, to be self-reliant and solve the difficulties of life.

As the largest lake in China, Qinghai Lake has a vast water area of over 4,600 square kilometers. How many Huangs are there in Qinghai Lake? According to Yang Jianxin, director of the Qinghai Lake Naked Carp Rescue Center, its original resource reserves are about 320,000 tons.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences conducted a comprehensive scientific expedition to Qinghai Lake between 1961-1963, and the report states, "Naked carp are large, with each tail generally weighing about 1 pound, with the larger ones weighing 6.5 pounds. fish of about 10 pounds are also relatively common."

How many Huangs are there in Qinghai Lake? From the Huangs migratory spawning bloom can be seen. A book records, migratory season, fish upstream, the sound of the water, such as the sea tide, "clear water half river, fish half river, fish ah down than the river water", migratory river almost became a "fish river". Once upon a time, "riding a horse in the water and stepping on the dead fish", "a stone smashed, a stick can hit two, a string of hooks, a net of a thousand pounds" that is, at that time, "fish thriving" of the picture.


What goes around comes around. Large-scale fishing has led to a dramatic decline in Huangshi resources, destroying the ability of the Qinghai Lake naked carp population to balance itself.

As the main economic source of fishery in Qinghai Province, the fishery of Qinghai Lake began to be developed on a large scale as early as 1958, and fish production has long accounted for more than half of the province's total fish production. According to historical data, in 1960, the annual fishery production of Qinghai Lake reached 28,000 tons. And the output throughout the 1960s was about 108,000 tons, with an annual average of more than 10,000 tons.

Wang Hao in the late 1950s and early 1960s wrote "Qinghai Lake travelogue" wrote, every Huangshi peak season, Xining street, Huangyuan canyon, sun and moon mountain, specially carrying fresh Huangshi silver gray refrigerated car to and from Mercedes. On the road, the fish car around the clock; Lake, fishing boat morning and evening return; Lakeside, full of fishermen's tent; Beach, drying the dry fish can not be transported. At that time, the "Qinghai dry fish" was very famous, and it was shipped to the capital in the east and supplied to Tibet in the west, "so that people all over the country could taste the taste of the plateau sea", and Qinghai Lake became a veritable "plateau fish bank".

According to records, in the early 1960s, there were 20 pairs of machine boats riding on Qinghai Lake, and new fishing bases were built on the east and west grasslands of the lake, and deep-water docks were built for machine boats to moor, so the fishing industry of Qinghai Lake entered a new stage of "deep-water fishing". The famous "Sea King" fishing boat can haul 80,000 to 90,000 pounds of fish at a time when it goes to sea. The fishing area around the lake is expanding, from shallow to deep, from narrow to wide. Even around the sea heart mountain has become the "sea king" and its partners gallop area.

Fishing boats step by step, Huangs step by step retreat.

Statistics show that from the 1960s to 1990s, the average annual catch of the Qinghai Lake fishery continued to decline significantly, and the average body length, weight and age also showed a significant downward trend. "All the big fish caught in the 1960s were 1 pound, and by the 1990s, only small fish of 3 taels were caught."

Behind the continued dramatic decline in catches is the dramatic decrease in the naked carp resource reserves of Qinghai Lake, which is in serious decline and the population is on the verge of extinction.

"The development at that time can be described as 'exhaustive and exhaustive'. By 2001, there were no more fish to be caught." Yang said.

In addition to the special historical period, in order to solve the problem of human survival and fishing, climate change, damming the river caused by "human fish for water" and other factors is caused by the Huangshi endangered another important push.

As a migratory fish, Huangshui April-August each year, from the Qinghai Lake anadromous spawning, migrate to the river into the lake, breeding activities. These rivers into the lake is like the Huangs "big spawning room".

However, with the climate drought and human activities intensified, the Qinghai Lake area most of the rivers dry up and disappear, break the flow frequently, resulting in Huangshi spawning grounds dry up, the number of spawning population is seriously insufficient. 1995, the Qinghai Lake largest river into the lake Buha River due to break the flow caused 300 tons of parental fish death, 2001 Qinghai Lake into the lake river Shaliu River, due to break the flow caused 135 tons of parental fish death, its scene is miserable.

According to the statistics of Qinghai Provincial General Station of Environment, Hydrology and Geology, there were 128 large and small rivers in the lake area in the 1950s, but by the end of the last century, only less than 10 rivers remained, such as Buha River, Heima River, Shaliu River and Quanji River.

At the same time, the water level of Qinghai Lake has been decreasing. Monitoring data show that from 1908 to 2000 of 92 years, Qinghai Lake water level elevation from 3205 meters down to 3193.3 meters, a total drop of 11.7 meters. The continuous shrinkage of the water body, resulting in the mineralization of the water body is elevated, Huangshi's living space continues to shrink, habitat deterioration.


In order to protect the Huangshui resources, to ensure the sustainable use of this valuable aquatic resources, to maintain the ecological balance of Qinghai Lake and even Qinghai-Tibet region, Qinghai Province on Qinghai Lake to take a series of protective measures. From 1982 to the present, 40 years has 6 times closed the lake to breed fish.

1st: November 1982 to November 1984 for 2 years, limited to 4,000 tons per year.

2nd: November 1986 to November 1989 for a period of 3 years with an annual production limit of 2,000 tons.

3rd: December 1994 to December 2000, for 6 years, with a limit of 700 tons per year.

4th: 10-year period from January 2001 to December 2010, with zero fishing.

5th: 10-year period from January 2011 to December 2020 with zero fishing.

6th: 10-year period from January 2021 to December 2030, with zero fishing.

"Six times the lake has been closed to fish for longer and longer periods of time with increasing intensity. Especially since the fourth time, 10 consecutive years of zero fishing measures to close the lake for fish breeding is the first time in the history of fish resource protection in China, which shows the determination of Qinghai Province to fully protect the ecology of Qinghai Lake and build a firm ecological barrier." Yang Jianxin said.

Taking the fourth closure of the lake for fish breeding from 2001 as a turning point, Qinghai Province has implemented a comprehensive closure of the lake for fish breeding and zero fishing protection measures in the 20 years until 2021, invested heavily in the implementation of systematic ecological environmental protection and management of the Qinghai Lake basin, built fish passage facilities on the Quanji River, Shaliu River and Halgai River in Qinghai Lake, and constructed a wetland park along the Shaliu River to better maintain the ecological security of Qinghai Lake.

Haibei Prefecture, Gangcha County is the most concentrated population around the lake area of a county, 13,000 resident population, because it is the closest to the Qinghai Lake, a county, there is a "seaside Tibetan city" called. In the past, in order to farmland irrigation, Shaliu River built a 2-meter high dam, Huangshi migration channel blocked.

"In order to Huangs smooth migration, the Shaliu River dam will be built into this open ladder type over the fish passage, Huangs can pass smoothly, but also in here to get a buffer, while migrating and rest." Is the riverside inspection of the gangsha county agriculture and animal husbandry comprehensive law enforcement brigade a squadron captain Xu Yongliang said to the reporter.

It is the migratory season, Shaliu River gathered flocks of fish gulls, the water swarms of Huangs against the current. Shore, tourists in groups of three or five, competing to watch the Huangs migratory, fish and bird symbiosis scene.

Xu Yongliang said that this season is particularly crowded with fish watchers. In these years, with the publicity, law enforcement, protection efforts to increase, around the lake basically no poaching Huangshi phenomenon. Around the people's protection awareness are very strong. The number of Huangs also grew relatively quickly, in the river can see two or three pounds of big fish has not surprising.

"In some places, like the Buha River side, there are fish of seven or eight or ten pounds." Xu Yongliang said.

In the Quanji River guarded by the Guncha County Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Comprehensive Law Enforcement Brigade two squadron leader Rob Renqing told reporters that from June to August, they will be tented in the river side, day and night duty inspection.

"This season to watch the fish a lot of people, now the task is no longer to combat poaching, but to guide the masses and tourists civilized fish watching, discourage people from feeding at will, so as not to affect the Huangshi migration." Luo Bu Renqing said, he and his colleagues also have to wear leather pants down to the river, to salvage garbage and dead fish caused by physical exhaustion.


Huangs, like chum salmon and salmon, are typically migratory fish.

The unique natural ecological environment of Qinghai Lake constitutes the most unique alpine ecosystem in the lake area. Lake climate cold, cold water, fish bait organism species less, low biomass, is a poor nutrient water body. Therefore, Huangs growth rate is very slow, eleven or twelve years to grow a pound, fertility is also low.

In April, the snow and ice melt, spring, Huangs sense the change of the season, in response to the time and move, began to migrate journey. They are in groups, against the current, short tens of kilometers, long hundreds of kilometers, through the elevation difference of tens of meters or even hundreds of meters of the river, to complete the mission of life continuity.

"Huangs choose the annual ice melt season migration, because like the warm environment, the higher the water temperature will be faster development. The river's small shallow side, stone nest in, is like a greenhouse, with a warm and safe environment, so it becomes the Huangs' maternity ward." Qinghai Lake naked carp rescue center Shaliu River Quanji River proliferation experimental station director Zhou Weiguo said.

It was found that the parent fish, anadromous from the lake to the river, gradually develop their gonads under the stimulation of the current, and in the process look for spawning sites where the water is shallow, the current is slow and smooth, the transparency is extremely high, and the geology is fine sand. As the male and female fish chase each other, the water surface is brought up in a cloud of water. The male uses his head to push against the female's abdomen, and his tail fin acts like a broom to "sweep" the sediment from the bottom of the water into an oval-shaped shallow pot-bottom depression, where the fertilized eggs are rolled into the depression by the faint eddies of the water to incubate and develop.

However, there are many dangers to natural breeding. Sometimes, fertilized eggs are washed away by a heavy flood; or when it doesn't rain for 10 days, the river level drops and the fertilized eggs become stranded and dry out.

"It's really not easy!" Zhou Weiguo said, Huangshi natural breeding success rate of only 1-2 ‰, all rely on the huge number of populations to support the prosperity of this species. Is therefore, over the years, with restrictions on fishing, ban on fishing, protection of spawning grounds to increase the effect of fish resources in Qinghai Lake is not obvious, resource growth is very slow.

Since 2002, while continuing to close the lake to protect the natural recovery of the population, Qinghai Province has invested in expanding and building new breeding experimental stations, using scientific means to conduct artificial breeding and releasing, and after a long period of exploration, the process has been improved, and the scale and intensity have been increased, so that the recovery of naked carp resources in Qinghai Lake has achieved very obvious results.

Zhou Weiguo where the experimental station was built in 1997, has now become Huangshi "artificially large maternity ward". Here built with factory fish hatchery workshop, reservoir, parental fish temporary pond and micro-circulation water fry breeding pool, as well as other ancillary facilities, to undertake the Qinghai Lake naked carp resources rescue and fry hatching tasks.

In the experimental station workshop, distributed a large round tank, dense small fry shaped like tadpoles, with the clear water flow in the tank swims in a fast circle.

"Can not miss the season, and farmers planting the same." Zhou Weiguo said, Huangs artificial hatchery, overall divided into collection, hatching, breaking the membrane, development to full moon and other steps. The water in the tank is drawn from two or three kilometers away from the Shaliu River water, after five times purification, filtration, through the flow rate control, regular oxygen, simulating the natural river water environment for hatching and cultivation. "Just like raising dolls, it's more worrying than raising dolls. 24 hours non-stop, every two hours feeding egg yolk water and soybean powder liquid respectively, as well as rotifers, commercial powder, etc."


Located in the northern suburbs of Xining City, Qinghai Province, Qinghai Lake naked carp rescue center, the distribution of a large pond, is the Huangshi baby "kindergarten".

In the summer of the highlands, the grass and trees are lush, and it is the season for everything to grow at will. In a square pond, a small black fish fry can be seen swimming happily.

Qi Hongfang, an extension researcher at the rescue center, introduced the fry bred at the experimental station for a full month and then transported here to continue breeding and then transported back for release the following year when they grow into 1+ age species. "At that time, the small fish reach 8-10 centimeters in length, already have the ability to feed, swim and avoid natural enemies, the body is also much stronger than the naturally bred fish, the survival rate is greatly improved."

It is reported that the initial release is just a full month of fry, but due to the harsh ecological environment of the Qinghai Lake area, the natural river in the river is suddenly large and small, the water temperature is suddenly high and low, the current is sometimes slow and rapid, unstable environment, resulting in the survival rate of the released fry is particularly low.

"These lives are not easy to come by." Is throwing bait into the pond rescue center original seed field in charge of Tian Wengen said, in order to meet the arrival of Huangshi babies, to draw a week in advance to the river water and after sedimentation and filtration, to maintain the freshness of water quality; cultivate some bait to join the pond, the pond water "fat", so that the long trip Huangshi babies "full of food under the pond", restore physical strength, adapt to the new environment. To Huangshi baby two days after the pond, and then sprinkle into the soybean bean paste, to ensure their nutrition.

"Like raising your own children, you must be responsible and loving at all times, and you can't be sloppy for a moment." This senior graduate of Shanghai Ocean University has been working here for 12 years. "The happiest thing is that every year when the river is released, looking at the small fry released into the river, running into the embrace of the mother river, feel that their hard work is all worthwhile."

Qi Hongfang said that artificial fish stocking and release, which has been widely used in the world, has played a good complementary role in the recovery of the increasingly depleted or significantly declining fish resources. Many years of practice shows that artificial augmentation release is a rapid supplement to Huangshi population number, stable population structure, increase biodiversity of important way.

From 2002 to 2021, a total of 197 million naked carp fry have been released into Qinghai Lake. Monitoring shows that the Huangyan carp resources have grown rapidly since the monitoring in 2002, picking up year by year. As of 2021, the naked carp resource in Qinghai Lake has grown to 108,500 tons, an increase of 10.59 tons from the lowest resource in 2002, which is 33.9% of the original resource containment.

According to a review by resource and environmental experts from the Chinese Academy of Fisheries Sciences, the stocking and release alone contributed 23% to the recovery of naked carp resources in Qinghai Lake.

"Today, the fishery ecology and naked carp resources of Qinghai Lake are stepping into a positive recovery trend." Yang said this has played a key role in dissipating nutrient salts in the watershed and preventing eutrophication of the lake, as well as providing an adequate food source for birds migrating across the country and around the world.

The blue waves of Qinghai Lake, everywhere showing fish flying in the shallow water, 10,000 birds soaring scene.

The rise and fall of a fish, from endangered to shallow, has witnessed the change of the ecological environment of Qinghai Lake and become a microcosm of Qinghai's ecological protection. (Reporter Lv Sherry)

▪ Reporter's Notes

Sharing Ecological Civilization

I have heard of the Huangs migration, but really see it in person, but in the summer of this year. Unexpectedly, was infected by the fish migration scene, inexplicably moved, often in a moment of distress to wake up to themselves.

Early morning on the banks of the Shaliu River in summer. Under the breeze, the river surface water ripples. Look closely, the sparkling water surface, a group of Huangs are moving against the current. Their posture is light, neat and tidy, as if well-trained.

When the current is fast, the fish body in a straight line, like the top of the current, not moving, as if rooted as fixed, then, save enough strength to rush up, but early peeping waiting brown-headed gulls and other water birds swooped down ......

During the migration, there are always some parent fish that are predated or buried in the belly of birds, or blinded by birds. While always on guard against natural predators, there are also various risks along the migration.

The reporter personally saw that the fish fighting the rapids, it was hard to hold the current, leaping up a step, and washed down by the oncoming whirlpool; some struggled to leap over a level, it was washed down more than two or three ...... saddened by the difficulty of its migration.

Whether on the banks of the Shaliu River or on the Quanji River, migrating fish have to climb more than 20 levels of ladder-like fish passage, with a drop of more than 2 m. More than 20 steps form more than 20 small waterfalls, and the parent fish have to leap over this hurdle after hurdle to find a suitable spawning ground upstream.

How can I see the rainbow without going through the storm? How can we grow without experiencing practice?

Watch Huangyan migration, let people feel, more is a kind of spirit: not afraid of difficulties, the courage to fight the spirit, perseverance, the spirit of hard work, but also unity and cooperation, the spirit of life and death.

As a cadre in Guncha County said, "If a small fish is still like this, how can we not work hard when we are born as human beings?"

In the long-term evolutionary process, Huangshi realized the change from river to lake, adapted to the high plateau alpine natural environment, adapted to the lake water constantly saline living environment, and even faded a scale armor. In order to better reproduction of the population, and the formation of anadromous migration of biological habits.

More than 60 years ago, Huangshi saved the lives of many people, but also nearly suffered the extinction of the population.

Gratitude to Huangyan, gratitude to nature. After more than 40 years of closed lake fish breeding, more than 20 years of artificial breeding and release, Qinghai government at all levels, around the lake of all ethnic groups, the love of fish and fish protection has become the wind.

Closed the lake to breed fish, once can not, come twice, so far it is the sixth; a two years can not, come three years, until a 10 years; from the limit of 4,000 tons to 700 tons, until the ban on fishing zero fishing ......

The road is long, but the journey will be long. Hard times and hardships, the jade will be the best.

The road to migration is not easy, and the road to fish protection is even harder. From the inordinate use to comprehensive protection, from the use of nature to comply with nature, and constantly explore out a scientific protection of Huangshi road, is the in-depth practice of ecological civilization thought of the road.

Nowadays, there is no fishing village around the lake, no fisherman in every household; fish watching and releasing becomes a festival, and the government and people are busy protecting fish.

It proves that the ecological environment of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is fragile, once destroyed, it is difficult to restore, must be embroidered work, long-term efforts.

Every migratory season, the masses of all ethnic groups, visitors from all sides, experience nature, feel life, spread the concept and share ecological civilization in the fish watching and releasing.

It just proves that ecological prosperity is the prosperity of civilization; a good ecological environment is the most universal welfare of people's livelihood. (Reporter Lv Sherry)