Taiwan salmon population hits record high

(Photo courtesy of Shei-Pa National Park Management Office)

(Photo courtesy of Shei-Pa National Park Management Office)

The population of Taiwan's critically endangered Formosan landlocked salmon has surpassed 10,000 for the first time on record, according to survey results released Wednesday by Shei-Pa National Park.
The endemic subspecies of salmon, which is considered a national treasure in Taiwan, is only found in freshwater streams at altitudes above 1,500 meters.
The park's 2019 survey estimated the species' total number at 10,532, with major populations of 5,392 in Qijiawan River, 3,575 in Hehuan Creek and 1,126 in Luoyewei Creek, the park's management office said in a press release.
According to Cheng Jui-chang (鄭瑞昌), deputy director of the office, the park's first survey of the species in 1992 showed it dangerously close to extinction, with a single population of around 200 fish remaining in the Dajiawan River basin.
In 2000, the park laid out a 30-year conservation plan for the species, which started with a four-year breeding program, Cheng said.
The park also developed an on-site conservation plan, removing or renovating five check dams to increase water flow, and repurposing farmland adjacent to the salmon's habitat, Cheng said.
It has also worked with Atayal indigenous communities -- for whom the salmon once constituted a major food source -- to organize patrols to prevent illegal fishing, he said.
Through the park's conservation efforts, the salmon's numbers have sharply rebounded, with self-sustaining populations in four separate river basins, the park office said.
Over the next two years, the park said it hopes to further stabilize the salmon's numbers by establishing populations in two other streams -- Sijielan and Nanhu creeks.
Shei-Pa National Park, which spans Hsinchu County, Miaoli County and Taichung City, hosts a diversity of ecosystems ranging from Xueshan peak at nearly 4,000 meters to its low point in the Da-an River basin.