Much to the delight of local preservationists, efforts to establish a second natural breeding ground for the Formosan landlocked salmon -- a critically endangered fish species -- have met success.
The Shei-Pa National Park Administration said Friday that after it released 250 Formosan landlocked salmon bred in captivity into branches of the Luoyewei and Sihjielan streams last June, 28 salmon had been spawned.
"We have found eight spawning grounds along the Luoyewei Stream and four spawning grounds in the Sijielan Stream, and a total of 28 fish have so far been spawned, " said Liao Lin-yen, director of the park's Wuling Formosan Landlocked Salmon Conservation Center.
The discovery indictates that captive-bred rare salmon can naturally breed after being released into the wild, Liao said, adding that the center has spent some 17 years achieving this goal.
Encouraged by the result, Liao said, the park administration is scheduled to release up to 1,000 salmon parr into the Luoyewei and Sihjielan branch streams May 22 in hopes of establishing them as a second natural habitat for the Formosan landlocked salmon -- a holdover from the last Ice Age and considered one of Taiwan's national treasures -- within five years' time.
Following 17 years of strenuous efforts on the part of the Wuling conservation center, Liao said, the number of Formosan landlocked salmon in the Cijiawan River -- its traditional habitat -- has risen from slightly more than 200 in 1995 to 4,000-plus at present.
As researchers have found that the species now has the ability to withstand losses during the typhoon season to continue proliferating during the breeding season, Liao said, the conservation center has not released captive-bred salmon parr in the river since 2006 and has instead launched a "taking young salmon home" program.
Under the project, Liao said, the center set up a "species bank" for the Formosan landlocked salmon and began releasing salmon fry into streams in which the species was once found in the past.
Initially, the program achieved little success, Liao recalled. The center released 1,500 salmon parr into three streams near the Cijiawan river four years ago, but most of them were washed away during typhoons before they could spawn.
A field survey found that larger volumes of water brought by typhoons as a result of global warming were having a negative impact on the species' breeding, Liao