Ocean Park nets five more sturgeon

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 July, 2008, 12:00am

Fish to go on show in time for Olympics

Five more Chinese sturgeon will be sent to Hong Kong this month to replace one that died and to ensure that they can be showcased on August 8, in time for the opening of the Olympic Games.

This will be Beijing's second donation to Ocean Park, after one of the five original sturgeon was killed by another fish in the aquarium last month. The plan was to have the five fish, considered national treasures, represent the five Olympic rings.

Ocean Park chairman Allan Zeman saw the gift as a blessing to the park.

'Out of adversity, out of bad things, sometimes good things happen,' he said. 'Now, instead of five sturgeon, we have nine sturgeon.'

The National Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Association decided to send five sturgeon, instead of only one, because of the August 8 deadline, according to Wei Qiwei, researcher of Yangtze River Fisheries Research Institute.

The sturgeon in Ocean Park live in saltwater, while the new fish live in freshwater. It would take weeks before the new group could adapt to saltwater and they could all live together - later than the opening date of the Olympic Games, Professor Wei said.

After studying Ocean Park's environment and considering the accident, mainland experts and the park decided to designate one aquarium to the sturgeon alone.

The new sturgeon will be housed in the existing shark aquarium, which will be renamed the Chinese Sturgeon Aquarium. The 26 sharks will be moved to the Atoll Reef Aquarium and 'back-of-house' pools - not for public viewing.

The aquarium will feature educational panels explaining the dietary habits of the 140-million-year-old species, and similarities among 26 other species in the sturgeon family.

Mr Zeman said he hoped to have the nine sturgeon in one aquarium by the end of the year. Meanwhile, only the five new fish will be exhibited starting on August 8; the rest will be kept in pools not seen by the public.

Mr Zeman said the park would do its best to ensure the safety of the sturgeon.

'We're always confident but, remember, these are living animals, things happen,' he said. 'We'll take every precaution we can ... but sometimes it's an act of nature. You try your best but things do go wrong.'

The youngest of the first batch of sturgeon, called No5, died in the Atoll Reef Aquarium last month after it was attacked by a barracuda. The incident occurred four days after the sturgeon were released into the aquarium, which houses about 1,500 sharks and other fish.

The new batch of sturgeon, to arrive by the end of the month, will be delivered to Ocean Park from Xiamen by land. The sturgeon are seven to nine years old and about 2 metres long, larger than the first batch. The first group of sturgeon came from Xiamen and Beijing and are two to nine years old.