National American Paddlefish Day is observed on March 9th of every year. The American Paddlefish is 300 million-year-old freshwater fish species, dating back 50 million years before dinosaurs even existed. The Shreveport Aquarium was founded on this day in 2019. Shreveport Aquarium has been rearing this threatened species to release them to help repopulate Caddo Lake. Each March, the Paddlefish Festival is held annually to bring awareness to this issue and help further their cause.
The paddlefish is sharklike, with a considerably elongated, paddlelike snout. The colour is bluish-grey to blackish on the back, grading to white on the belly. Small individuals' snout is over one-third of the fish’s total length. The mouth is large, lacks teeth (in adults), and is far back beneath the head. The eyes are small, positioned just above the front edge of the mouth, and directed down and forward instead of to the side. The gill cover has a fleshy, pointed flap. The tail is forked, with the upper lobe longer than the lower. There are no scales except for a patch on the tail.
A population that has existed for over 150 million years faces extinction from modern civilisation. The extinction of the Chinese Paddlefish and wild Yangtze Sturgeon, declared by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), unleashed a torrent of concern from environmentalists and urged calls for more protection.
The following is a list of threats facing the paddlefish:
In the US, the paddlefish populations are found in 22 states that comprise parts of the Mississippi River drainage basin. It is found from New York to central Montana and south down to Louisiana; Gulf Slope drainages from Mobile Bay, Alabama, to Galveston Bay, Texas.
Shreveport Aquarium creates awareness of the paddlefish in a fun, creative way. The festival program includes various fun events for children and adults, such as educational displays, special animal feedings, games, crafts, contests with prizes, face painting, meetings with guest speakers, and more. The highlight of the festival is the release of paddlefish into Caddo Lake.
Of course, the best way to celebrate National American Paddlefish Day is to attend the Paddlefish Festival in Shreveport, but we realise that only some have such an opportunity. Luckily, there are many other ways to observe the holiday. You can learn more about paddlefish and share the facts you’ve learned with anyone willing to listen, visit an aquarium near you, donate to a conservation organisation, and spread the word about the holiday on social media with the hashtags #NationalAmericanPaddlefishDay and #NationalPaddlefishDay.