Extinction threatens a third of freshwater fish species, report says

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, accounting for more than half of all species in the world, have already been declared extinct, and 16 disappeared in 2020 alone.

Migratory populations have declined by more than three-quarters since the 1970s, while populations of larger species, weighing more than 60 pounds, have declined by an 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 wetlands, millions of people around the world also depend on them for food security and their livelihoods, including in vulnerable and indigenous communities. . Therefore, its rapid decline could endanger societies and economies around the world, according to the report.

Conservation groups behind the report, including the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the World Wildlife Conservation, point to a combination of pressures on global freshwater fish populations, including habitat degradation, dam construction and drainage of rivers and wetlands, pollution and the introduction of invasive species. , wildlife crime 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 at risk of extinction, according to the report.

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The study calls freshwater fish “undervalued,” and WWF’s Stuart Orr says freshwater fish are often forgotten in global debates about climate, biodiversity and global development.

“I think this report is 16 organizations coming together to highlight, on the one hand, the incredible diversity of freshwater fish species, but on the other hand, remind people that these species are in decline and are linked to a great amount 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 begin to think about all the discussions governments are going to have on biodiversity, it is really a time for us to shine a light on freshwater,” he added.

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

Orr said that a United Nations biodiversity conference in China later this year will be an opportunity for governments to speak out about the crisis and, for the first time, pay so much attention to protecting and restoring water systems. livelihoods of freshwater life like forests and forests of the world. oceans.

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