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Freshwater fish in “catastrophic” decline with one-third threatened with extinction, report says

Thousands of fish species face “catastrophic” decline – threatening the health, food security and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people around the world. New research shows that a third of all freshwater fish facing extinction.

According to a report released Tuesday by 16 global conservation groups, 18,075 species of freshwater fish inhabit our oceans, representing more than half of all fish species in the world and a quarter of all vertebrates on Earth. . This the biodiversity is essential to maintain not only the health of the planet, but also the economic prosperity of communities around the world.

About 200 million people in Asia, Africa and South America depend on freshwater fishermen for their primary source of protein, researchers said in “The World’s Forgotten Fishes” report. About a third of these people also depend on them for their work and livelihoods.

Despite their importance, freshwater fish are “undervalued and neglected,” the researchers said – and now freshwater biodiversity is declining twice as fast as in oceans and forests.

Eighty freshwater species have already been declared extinct – 16 of them in 2020 alone.

Freshwater fish in “catastrophic” decline with one-third threatened with extinction, report says
Thousands of dead freshwater fish are seen around Lake Koroneia, Greece, September 19, 2019.

SAKIS MITROLIDIS / AFP via Getty Images


“Nowhere is the world’s nature crisis more acute than in our rivers, lakes and wetlands, and the clearest indicator of the damage we are causing is the rapid decline in waterfish populations. sweet. They are the aquatic version of the canary in the coal mine, and we have to heed the warning, ”said Stuart Orr of the World Wildlife Fund. “Despite their importance to local communities and indigenous people around the world, freshwater fish are invariably overlooked and are not considered in development decisions regarding hydroelectric dams or water use or construction on flood plains. “

Migratory species have fallen by more than three-quarters over the past 50 years, while populations of larger species, known as “mega-fish”, have declined “catastrophically” by 94%.

Freshwater ecosystems face a devastating combination of threats – including habitat destruction, hydroelectric dams, overuse of water for irrigation, various types of pollution, overfishing, the introduction of invasive species and ongoing climate change.

Organizations such as the World Wide Fund for Nature, Global Wildlife Conservation and The Nature Conservancy have now called on governments to implement an “emergency recovery plan” to save freshwater biodiversity. They recommend protecting and restoring rivers, water quality and critical habitat – reversing the damage caused by overfishing.

“Freshwater fish are important to the health of people and the freshwater ecosystems on which all humans and all life on earth depend,” said Orr. “It is time we remembered that.”

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