Extinction threatens a third of freshwater fish species, according to report

LONDON – Nearly a third of all freshwater fish species are threatened with extinction, according to a new report released by 16 conservation groups on Tuesday.

“The world’s forgotten fish” says that 80 freshwater species – which make up more than half of all species in the world – have already been declared extinct, with 16 disappearing only in 2020.

Migrant populations have declined by more than three-quarters since the 1970s, while populations of larger species, weighing more than 60 pounds, have fallen even more “catastrophic” 94 percent, he said.

Female sturgeons at Walter Gruell’s fish farm in the village of Groedig near Salzburg, Austria, in December.Joe Klamar / AFP via Getty Images archive

While freshwater fish are important for the healthy functioning of the world’s rivers, lakes and swamps, millions of people around the world also depend on them for food security and livelihood, including in vulnerable and indigenous communities. Its rapid decline could therefore endanger societies and economies around the world, the report said.

Conservation groups behind the report, including World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Global Wildlife Conservation, point to a combination of pressures on global freshwater fish populations, including habitat degradation, damming and drainage of rivers and swamps , pollution, introduction of invasive species, crimes against wildlife and the growing threat of climate change.

Of more than 10,000 species whose conservation status has been assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 30 percent are considered to be at risk of extinction, the report said.

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The study calls freshwater fish “undervalued”, with WWF’s Stuart Orr saying that freshwater fish are often overlooked in global debates on climate, biodiversity and global development.

“I think in this report there are 16 organizations coming together to highlight, on the one hand, the incredible diversity of freshwater fish species, but on the other hand, to remind people that these species are in decline and linked to a lot of food security, jobs and cultural services, ”Orr told NBC News by phone from Gland, Switzerland.

“As we seek to adapt to climate change and start to think about all the discussions that governments will have on biodiversity, it is really time to turn the light on to fresh water,” he added.

The report calls for an emergency recovery plan to reverse decades of decline, protecting and restoring natural river flows, water quality and critical habitats, while undoing the damage caused by overfishing.

Orr said a United Nations conference on biodiversity to be held in China later this year will be a chance for governments to talk about the crisis and, for the first time, to pay so much attention to protecting and restoring freshwater life support systems. as the world’s forests and oceans.