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BioFresh partners write the new IUCN Red List of endangered freshwater fish

December 19, 2011

A new IUCN Red List for European freshwater fish, written by BioFresh partner Jörg Freyhof and Emma Brooks from the University of Southhampton, has been recently published.  You can read it through the interactive Issuu magazine above, or download it here.  More information on IUCN Red Lists is available here.

The Red List is: “a review of the conservation status of around 6,000 European species, including dragonflies, butterflies, freshwater fishes, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and selected groups of beetles, molluscs, and vascular plants, according to IUCN regional Red Listing guidelines. It identifies those species that are threatened with extinction at the regional level – in order that appropriate conservation action can be taken to improve their status. This Red List publication summarizes the results for all described native European freshwater fishes and lampreys (hereafter referred to as just freshwater fishes)(vii).”

A review of 531 freshwater fish species across Europe yielded the main finding that:

“Overall, at least 37% of Europe’s freshwater fishes are threatened at a continental scale, and 39% are threatened at the EU 27 level. A further 4% of freshwater fishes are considered Near Threatened. This is one of the highest threat levels of any major taxonomic group assessed to date for Europe. The conservation status of Europe’s eight sturgeon species is particularly worrying: all but one are Critically Endangered (vii)”

In short, freshwater fish are amongst the most vulnerable taxonomic group in Europe, with a number close to extinction.  This is a worrying conclusion, and one that calls for rapid and effective freshwater conservation work.  The main threats to European freshwater fish were identified as pollution, water abstraction, overfishing, dam construction and the introduction of alien species.  The authors call for stronger and more effective political protection for freshwater fish (e.g. through the EU Habitats Directive), and better conservation management for freshwaters (e.g. through the use of Key Biodiversity Areas).

The authors advise that: “In order to improve the conservation status of European freshwater fishes and to reverse their decline, ambitious conservation actions are urgently needed. In particular: ensuring adequate protection and management of key freshwater habitats and of their surrounding areas, drawing up and implementing Species Action Plans for the most threatened species, establishing monitoring and ex-situ programmes, finding appropriate means to limit further alien species introductions, especially by anglers, and revising national and European legislation, adding species identified as threatened where needed. (viii)”

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