SOURCE: The Guardian
DATE: February 23, 2021
SNIP: Freshwater fish are under threat, with as many as a third of global populations in danger of extinction, according to an assessment.
Populations of migratory freshwater fish have plummeted by 76% since 1970, and large fish – those weighing more than 30kg – have been all but wiped out in most rivers. The global population of megafish down by 94%, and 16 freshwater fish species were declared extinct last year.
The report by 16 global conservation organisations, called The World’s Forgotten Fishes, said that global populations of freshwater fish were in freefall. The problems are diverse and include pollution, overfishing and destructive fishing practices, the introduction of invasive non-native species, climate change and the disruption of river ecologies. Most of the world’s rivers are now dammed in parts, have water extracted for irrigation or have their natural flows disrupted, making life difficult for freshwater fish.
Environment Agency data showed last year that no English rivers met the highest chemical standards, and only 15% of UK rivers were rated as having good ecological status. Farm pollution and sewage outflows were among the leading causes of damage. Dave Tickner, WWF’s chief adviser on freshwater, said: “Freshwater habitats are some of the most vibrant on earth, but they are in catastrophic decline. The UK is no exception – wildlife struggles to survive, let alone thrive, in our polluted waters.”
Salmon, which spend part of their life cycle in freshwater ecosystems, have been in sharp decline in the UK since the 1960s, and the European eel is critically endangered. Burbot and sturgeon are extinct in UK waters.
The report found that biodiversity in freshwater ecosystems was being lost at twice the rate of oceans and forests.