National American Paddlefish Day Date in the current year: March 9, 2024

National American Paddlefish Day National American Paddlefish Day is observed every March 9 to raise awareness of the vulnerable status of the only surviving species of paddlefish and promote American paddlefish conservation efforts.

The American paddlefish, also known as Mississippi paddlefish, spoonbill or spoon-billed cat, is one of the world’s oldest fish species. It dates back 300 million years ago. The paddlefish family (Polyodontidae) includes six species. Four of them went extinct long ago, the Chinese paddlefish became functionally extinct in the 1990s and was officially declared extinct in 2022, and the American paddlefish is the only extant paddlefish species.

The American paddlefish is a freshwater fish species native to the Mississippi river basin. Until the 20th century, its peripheral range extended into the Great Lakes, but American paddlefish populations have declined dramatically since the mid-20th century. Today, they can be found in the Mississippi and Missouri River tributaries in 22 states.

The main threats that American paddlefish face include overfishing and poaching, habitat destruction, invasive species that disrupt the ecosystem (for instance, zebra mussels), and pollution. The American paddlefish is classified as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature; its IUCN Red List conservation status is “vulnerable”. The species is protected under state, federal and international laws.

National American Paddlefish Day was launched by Shreveport Aquarium in 2019. The city of Shreveport, Louisiana is the nearest large city to Caddo Lake, an internationally protected wetland situated on the border of Texas and Louisiana. The lake used to be inhabited by paddlefish but it completely disappeared from the lake in the 1970s. Shreveport Aquarium teamed up with Caddo Lake Institute to repopulate the lake. They are rearing paddlefish and releasing them in the lake.

Shreveport Aquarium created National American Paddlefish Day to raise awareness of this threatened fish species and highlight the importance of conservation efforts. The official date of the holiday is March 9, but the aquarium typically holds its annual Paddlefish Festival on the preceding or following Saturday.

The program of the festival includes a variety of 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 realize that not everyone has 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 who is willing to listen, visit an aquarium near you, donate to a conservation organization, and spread the word about the holiday on social media with the hashtags #NationalAmericanPaddlefishDay and #NationalPaddlefishDay.

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