• Staff writer


Updated: Mar 23, 2021

The world’s diverse freshwater fish are critical for the health, food security and livelihoods of millions of people but they are under increasing threat, with one in three species already threatened with extinction, according to a report published by 16 global organisations.

World’s Forgotten Fishes details the variety of freshwater fish species essential to the health of the world’s river, lakes and wetlands. Freshwater fish stocks also sustain two huge global industries - recreational fishing and aquarium fish, which are the world’s most popular pets.

Despite this, freshwater fish continue to be undervalued and thousands of species are facing extinction – 80 species have already been declared extinct by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 16 of these in 2020 alone.

According to Stuart Orr, WWF global freshwater lead, freshwater fish are not factored into development decisions about hydropower dams, water use or building on floodplains.

The report highlights the threats facing freshwater ecosystems, including habitat destruction, hydropower dams on free-flowing rivers, over-abstraction of water for irrigation and pollution. In addition, freshwater fish are also at risk from over-fishing, destructive fishing practices, the introduction of invasive species, the impacts of climate change, unsustainable sand mining and wildlife crime.

Despite the long list of threats, there are also solutions and 2021 offers hope that the world can start to reverse decades of decline in fish populations. It must secure a global biodiversity agreement at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity conference in Kunming, China.

The WWF was one of several conservation organisations involved in the publishing of the report. Its mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment by conserving biological diversity and ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable.


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