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According to an assessment, 25% of the world’s freshwater fish are in danger of becoming extinct.

An expert evaluation revealed that approximately 25% of the world’s freshwater fish face potential extinction as a result of global warming, excessive fishing, and pollution.

The first assessment of the category by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has discovered that numerous freshwater fish, such as the large-toothed Lake Turkana robber in Kenya and the Mekong giant catfish in south-east Asia, are in danger of extinction.

About 20% of endangered freshwater species are influenced by climate change, experiencing effects like declining water levels, changing seasons, and the intrusion of seawater into rivers. Out of the evaluated species, 3,086 out of 14,898 were in danger of disappearing.

According to recent scientific evaluations, mahogany, Atlantic salmon, and green turtles are facing growing threats. However, there is positive news about the saiga antelope. After its population increased by 1,100% in just seven years, primarily in Kazakhstan, it has moved from the critically endangered category to near threatened.

A saiga antelope in yellow grass.

Reintroducing the scimitar-horned oryx in Chad has been a success. This species used to be widespread in the Sahel region, but was wiped out in the 1990s due to excessive hunting. However, through efforts to reintroduce them from captivity, the population has now grown to 140 mature individuals in the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim faunal reserve in Chad. Unfortunately, this species is still at risk of extinction and experts warn that the climate crisis poses a threat to its survival.

“The latest update of the IUCN red list demonstrates the effectiveness of collaborative efforts at the local, national, and international level in conservation. The successful preservation of species like the scimitar horned oryx serves as evidence that conservation efforts are effective. In order to ensure long-lasting results from these actions, it is crucial to address both the interconnected issues of climate change and biodiversity,” stated Razan Al Mubarak, the president of IUCN.

Two salmon leaping up a waterfall.

Big leaf mahogany, among the most commercially sought-after plants on the planet, is now classified as endangered after its numbers fell by 60% over the past 180 years due to unsustainable harvesting. Mahogany wood remains valuable for furniture, musical instruments and decorations, which has driven illegal logging of the tree across central and South America.

The Atlantic salmon, once plentiful and considered a species of low concern, is currently in danger of becoming near threatened according to the IUCN red list. This is due to a 23% decline in its global population, with many rivers in the UK no longer having this fish. The Atlantic salmon, which can survive in both freshwater and saltwater environments, has been negatively impacted by loss of habitat, climate change, and dams that prevent them from reaching breeding grounds. Additionally, breeding with farmed salmon has made them less able to adapt to the effects of climate change, while the introduction of invasive Pacific pink salmon has led to their spread in northern Europe.

A baby green sea turtle hatchling scurrying into the ocean.

According to Kathy Hughes, the co-chair of the IUCN species survival commission freshwater fish specialist group, more than 50% of all known fish species in the world are found in freshwater. This is quite remarkable considering that freshwater habitats only make up 1% of all aquatic habitats. These various species play a crucial role in maintaining the ecosystem and contribute to its ability to bounce back from disruptions. This is especially important for the billions of people who depend on freshwater ecosystems, as well as the millions who rely on fishing for their livelihoods.

She stated that it is crucial to properly manage freshwater ecosystems, maintain their natural flow and adequate water levels, and ensure good water quality in order to prevent declines in species and uphold food security, livelihoods, and economies in a world that is resilient to climate change.

Scientists warn that both central south Pacific and east Pacific green turtles are facing a high risk of extinction. These species are frequently caught as bycatch in both industrial and artisanal fishing practices, and their eggs are considered a delicacy in certain countries. Additionally, the increasing global temperatures are negatively impacting their ability to hatch, and the rising sea levels are causing nests to flood.

  • The article was updated on December 11, 2023. A previous version mistakenly stated that the scimitar-horned oryx was the fourth largest mammal in the world. It is actually the fourth large animal to be successfully reintroduced to the wild in the last 100 years.

  • Find more age of extinction coverage here, and follow biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield on X for all the latest news and features

Source: theguardian.com