LONDON – Almost a third of all freshwater fish species are threatened with extinction, according to a new report released Tuesday by 16 conservation groups.
“The World’s Forgotten Fishes” claims that 80 freshwater species – which represent more than half of all species in the world – have already been declared extinct, of which 16 are extirpated 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 fallen 94% even more “catastrophically”, according to the report.
While freshwater fish are important for the functioning of the world’s rivers, lakes and wetlands, millions of people around the world also depend on them for their food security and livelihoods, including in communities. vulnerable and indigenous. Their rapid decline could therefore put societies and economies around the world at risk, according to the report.
Conservation groups behind the report, including the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Global Wildlife Conservation, point to a combination of pressures on global freshwater fish populations, including habitat degradation , the construction of dams and the drainage of rivers and wetlands, pollution, the introduction of invasive species. , wildlife crime and the ever increasing threat of climate change.
Of more than 10,000 species whose conservation status has been assessed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 30% are considered threatened with extinction, according to the report.
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The study calls freshwater fish “undervalued,” with WWF’s Stuart Orr saying freshwater fish are often overlooked in global debates on climate, biodiversity and global development.
“I think this report is about 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 related to a lot of food security, jobs and cultural services, ”Orr told NBC News over the phone from Gland, Switzerland.
“As we seek to adapt to climate change and begin to reflect on all the discussions governments are going to have on biodiversity, it is really time for us to put fresh water back in the spotlight,” he said. he adds.
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 reversing the damage caused by overfishing.
Orr said that a United Nations biodiversity conference to be held in China later this year will provide an opportunity for governments to talk about the crisis and, for the first time, to pay so much attention to the protection and restoration of freshwater survival systems as the world’s forests and oceans.