Message from Captain Paul Watson:
I am steaming angry today. The Yangtze river dolphin called the Baiji has been officially declared extinct.
A team of 30 scientists and crew from China, and six other nations searched a 1,000-mile heavily trafficked stretch of the Yangtze, where the Baiji once thrived. After six weeks of intensive search, not a single dolphin was spotted.
The only other cetacean in the river is the finless porpoise and there are only about 400 remaining.
This once rare, nearly blind white dolphin that has survived for millions of years is now gone, exterminated by human development, a victim of "progress" the Chinese say.
The Chinese had once declared it to be the "Goddess of the Yangtze" and predicted that when the Baiji disappears the river will be dead.
This dolphin is the first large marine mammal to be driven to extinction since the extermination of the Caribbean monk seal in the 1950's
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society recognizes this as a major tragedy and the saddest report for the year 2006.
In the 1980's there were about 400 Baiji in the Yangtze. In 1997, a population survey counted only 13 animals. The last confirmed sighting of a Baiji was in 2004.
This beautiful dolphin has disappeared because of the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, heavy ship traffic that confused their sonar abilities, overfishing, and high levels of industrial pollutants dumped into the river.
"The Baiji is functionally extinct. We might have missed one or two animals but it won't survive in the wild," said August Pfluger, a Swiss economist turned naturalist who helped put together the expedition. "We are all incredibly sad."
The Yangtze River dolphin was the only living representative of an entire family of marine mammals. This put a permanent end to this particular branch of evolution.
For information on the Baiji check out: The baiji.org Foundation: http://www.baiji.org
Sea Shepherd sends a message of condolence and support to August Pfluger, who has dedicated many years to trying to save the Yangtze River dolphin.