Researchers and conservationists have appealed to the State Council, China’s cabinet, to elevate the porpoises from class II to class I protected species status – which would give more legal heft to preservation efforts – and to create more porpoise reserves. They have also called for better enforcement of waste-discharge regulations, and suggest reducing boat traffic, regulating fishing equipment or even introducing a fishing ban in the river.
Protecting river ecosystems is not just about saving charismatic animals such as the finless porpoise, says Wang. “Ultimately, it’s about our own existence. Rivers that are too sick to support a healthy ecosystem would be also unsuitable for human use.”