16 Freshwater Fish Species Went Extinct in Last Year, Signaling ‘Catastrophic’ Decline


Feb 23, 2021


Image Credit: Lance Merry

Warning of a ‘catastrophic’ decline in freshwater fish, a new report revealed that 80 species have already become extinct — with 16 of them being wiped away in the last year alone.

A third of freshwater species of fish are threatened by extinction, the report warns. Titled “The World’s Forgotten Fishes,” it was prepared by 16 global conservation organizations, including the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

According to the report, the threats to freshwater fish species include pollution, over-fishing and destructive fishing practices, the introduction of invasive non-native species, disruption of river ecologies through dams, climate change, and a disregard for freshwater ecosystems in policy-making.

The report has put forth a six-pillared plan to prevent further extinctions. “It’s now more urgent than ever that we find the collective political will and effective collaboration with private sector, governments, NGOs and communities, to implement nature-based solutions that protect freshwater species, while also ensuring human needs are met,” Carmen Revenga, a senior scientist at The Nature Conservancy, which was one of the groups involved in the study, told the BBC.

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The plan involves letting rivers flow more freely and naturally and removing obsolete dams; improving water quality in freshwater ecosystems; preventing, or at least controlling invasions by non-endemic species; and putting an end to overfishing and unsustainable sand mining in rivers and lakes.

“Critical for food and nutrition security,” freshwater fish provide food for 200 million people globally, and livelihoods for 60 million, according to the report. In India, too, some communities largely depend on freshwater fish to sustain themselves. In fact, in 2018, Asia accounted for a third of the global catch with China, India, and Bangladesh, among a few others, reporting the largest hauls.

In addition, constituting almost a fourth of the world’s vertebrate species, freshwater fish are an integral part of freshwater biodiversity. “Nowhere is the world’s biodiversity crisis more acute than in freshwater ecosystems,” the report notes, drawing attention to the scale of the problem. And this is when threats like noise, artificial light, and microplastic-pollution are still emerging.

“We can and we must act now. Freshwater fishes, in all their dazzling diversity, have been forgotten for too long,” Professor Jon Hutton, director of WWF’s International’s Global Conservation, wrote in the foreword to the report, calling people into action.


Written By Devrupa Rakshit

Devrupa Rakshit is an Associate Editor at The Swaddle. She is a lawyer by education, a poet by accident, a painter by shaukh, and autistic by birth. You can find her on Instagram @devruparakshit.


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