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Rare fish back on menu in October

By Jasmine Zhao (Shanghai Daily)

09:30, May 17, 2013

Local residents will get a chance to try out Roughskin sculpin, a fish that was once listed as endangered, after scientists said its population had risen substantially.

The fish, known for its delicate taste, was a must on the menu of the rich and the famous for hundreds of years, including former US President Richard Nixon's historic trip to China in 1972.

The fish will be available from October after Fudan University scientists announced yesterday that they had successfully bred and expanded the population of the rare fish.

About 10,000 fish will be put on table this October at some restaurants in Shanghai. More than 600,000 fish fries have been bred until this month.

The price will be around 238 yuan (US$38.7) per fish which is about 16 centimeters long and weighs 50 grams, said Dr Wang Jinqiu, who led the research team to save the once endangered species.

Roughskin sculpin has a big head, small eyes and a big mouth. Its front body is flat. It has a grey black back with four bands on it.

A unique feature of Roughskin sculpin is that it has four peculiar gills. "A pair of the gills is real and the other pair is false," Wang explained. Two gill covers have orange bands, which is also one of its features.

Roughskin sculpin was a precious dish found more than 200 years ago when Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) visited the southern part of China and tasted it.

The emperor hailed it as "the best fish in southern region of the Yangtze River".

In recent years, Roughskin sculpin was served to important foreign guests such as Nixon.

It was one of the delicacies that late Prime Minister Zhou Enlai treated Nixon in Shanghai, Dr Wang said.

In 1988, Roughskin sculpin was included in the List of the Wildlife under Special State Protection as a second grade protected animal by the Chinese government.

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