One-third of the freshwater fish that makes up 51 per cent of the total known fish species face the possible risk of extinction, says an assessment report by 16 global conservation organizations.
The study report titled 'The World's Forgotten Fishes' was led by the World Wildlife Fund For Nature (WWF) and other organizations like the London Zoological Society (ZSL), Alliance for Freshwater Life, Global Wildlife Conservation, the Sustainable Seafood Coalition, World Fish Migration Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, etc.
Pollution, overfishing and destructive fishing practices, the introduction of invasive non-native species, climate change and the disruption of river ecologies, etc., have contributed to the increasing extinction of aquatic life.
A total of 18,075 freshwater fish species have been identified, which accounts for over half of all the world's fish species and a quarter of all vertebrate species. Freshwater habitats are incredibly diverse, and so are the fishes that live in them, but shockingly 16 freshwater fish species were declared extinct in 2020, says the statement.
Since 1970, migratory freshwater fish have declined by 76 per cent, and mega-fish, which are fishes weighing more than 30 kilograms, has declined by 94 per cent. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) also indicated that 30 per cent of freshwater fishes are at risk of extinction.
"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 doing is the rapid decline in freshwater fish populations," said Stuart Orr from WWF.
The majority of the rivers are dammed, disrupting migration. Freshwater habitats are now experiencing a decline, and the animals are struggling to survive in polluted waters. The report found that biodiversity in freshwater ecosystems was being lost at twice the rate of oceans and forests.
Not only are the fishes, but even their eggs are in danger due to illegal caviar poaching, which is one of the reasons why sturgeon fish tops the list of threatened fishes.
"Freshwater fishes matter to the health of people, and it is on freshwater ecosystems that all people and all life on land depend on. It's time we remembered that," added Stuart Orr.