The Chinese paddlefish's sharp, protruding snout made it one of the largest freshwater species in the world.
Researchers declared the Chinese paddlefish as extinct, over a decade after the last known sightings of the species.
"It's farewell at first sight", said China Youth Daily, noting that many were lamentably unfamiliar with the paddlefish before learning of its demise. It could grow as long as 7 meters (23 feet), but in the end, it couldn't survive the overfishing, habitat fragmentation and loss of biodiversity in its native Yangtze River, according to a research paper in the Science of The Total Environment, a peer-reviewed environmental science journal.
"As no individuals exist in captivity, and no living tissues are conserved for potential resurrection, the fish should be considered extinct according to the IUCN Red List criteria", Wei and his fellow researchers wrote in their paper.
The paper said since the late 1970s Chinese paddlefish populations declined drastically. China listed the fish as a nationally protected animal in the 1980s, but the IUCN said the construction of dams on the Yangtze River continued to block its migration route and prevented it from breeding in the upper reaches of the river. During that time, the Gezhouba Dam was built on the main stream of the river, and the opening of the Three Gorges dam project followed in 2003 - the a year ago a live Chinese paddlefish was sighted.
The fish was deemed "functionally extinct", meaning the species was unable to reproduce to sustainable numbers, in 1993, and researchers say that no giant paddlefish have been seen in China's Yangtze River - where the fish are typically found - since 2003.
Pan Wenjing, a forest and oceans manager for Greenpeace East Asia, commented: "The extinction of the paddlefish is a huge loss and reflects the critical status of the Yangtze River ecosystem".
Researchers said 140 other types of fish historically reported in the Yangtze River were not found, meaning a lot of them are endangered.
China last week announced a 10-year commercial fishing ban in over 300 conservation zones along the Yangtze River after it found an "overall decline" in the population of endangered species, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs told Xinhua News Agency.
Users on Weibo expressed the wish that a Chinese paddlefish might still resurface in the river. "Humans should not live alone on this planet".