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Across China: AI technology escorts rare carp to saltwater lake


Xinhua
11 Jan 2021

CHONGQING, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- At an altitude of about 3,300 meters, the headwater region of China's Yangtze River shelters numerous endangered wildlife. It is in the northwestern province of Qinghai, and this is where nascent artificial intelligence (AI) technology escorts rare carps to the sanctuary.

Qinghai Lake, the country's largest inland saltwater lake, covers around 4,400 square km and is home to the naked carp, a species endemic to the plateau. Between May and August every year, the carps travel hundreds of km upstream to spawn in the ideal fresh waters surrounding the lake and defend their offspring to the death.

The rare carps feed on algae and can help purify the water. In turn, they become easy prey for waterfowl to sustain the lake's ecological balance.

Reeling from the steep fall in the lake's carp population, the local government has renovated the dams along the water into a terraced breeding migration conduit for the species.

However, the over 300-km-long access makes it hard to monitor and trace illegal fishing, let alone conducting related scientific research, said Wang Luhai, a senior engineer with the China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research.

CloudWalk Technology Co., Ltd., a Chongqing-based technology solution provider, got creative in safeguarding the endangered carps. They revamped the conduit, using medium-altitude cameras and intelligent data-crunching input into an AI-empowered watercourse.

Above the shimmering water, cameras capture real-time images of the rivers. They identify biological attributes via video-streaming data analysis. The agile AI technologies' processing talent is equal to the seemingly impossible task of tracking the wild carps in a complex and changeable underwater environment. So observed Zhang Yuqi, senior algorithm engineer of the Cloudwalk Research Institute with the company.

"AI technologies can help accurately detect the carps' breeding quantity and ecological distribution in Qinghai Lake, which provides further scientific data support for preserving the species," Wang said.

In 2002, only 2,592 tonnes of naked carps populated Qinghai Lake. Starting from 2003, Qinghai Province launched a fishing and sales ban on the species.

In 2020, 100,400 tonnes of naked carps, nearly 39 times the number in 2002, were reported in the Lake, marking an enormous stride in restoring the species' population.

China has also announced another 10-year ban on the fishing of naked carp in Qinghai Lake and rivers upstream in Qinghai, starting from Jan. 1, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2030, to boost the rare carp stocks and improve the local eco-systems.

"In the future, we want to increase fusing AI technologies with the research, preservation, and monitoring of endangered animals based upon this intelligent wildlife protection paradigm to better guard the pure plateau," Zhang said.

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