One in three European freshwater fish facing extinction

Washington, Nov 3 : New data has revealed that many freshwater fish in Europe face the danger of extinction.

According to a report released by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), 200 out of a total of 522 freshwater fish species in Europe are at a serious risk of extinction.

The report also states that the  European eel figures on the critically endangered list of freshwaterfish species. The number of these eels reaching rivers from their breeding waters in the Atlantic Ocean has dropped between 95 and 99 percent since 1980.

Another endangered species includes the Chornaya Gudgeon (Gobio delyamurei), known to live in a single river in Ukraine. It is also in danger of being wiped out because of the divertion of its waters for farmland irrigation.

The Jarabugo (Anaecypris hispanica), which is found in southwest Spain and Portugal, has suffered losses of more than 50 percent in the last ten years due to multiple factors.

Listed among the already extinct species is the houting, a herringlike coastal fish that migrated up rivers in northern Europe to spawn. Most of the extinct fish recorded in the study lived in Central Europe during the 1970s and '80s and were most likely victims of pollution.

In general, the declines are largely due to the last hundred years of human environmental impacts, such as dam construction and water extraction. Water removal in some parts of Europe has also caused rivers to dry up in summer months, a problem aggravated by climate change impacts.

Another reason for the decline is the introduction of non-native species in Europe.

"In Spain and Portugal, for instance, predatory pike introduced from Central Europe and largemouth bass introduced from North America have proved disastrous. These fish eat all the native fauna, which are not adapted to predation at all," said Jörg Freyhof, co-author of the research. "Likewise, introduced brown trout from northern Europe have seriously jeopardized endemic trout populations in Balkan countries," he added.

According to IUCN's Darwall, "The endangered fish are an important part of our heritage and are critical to the freshwater ecosystems upon which we depend, such as for water purification and flood control."

"Many of these species can be saved through relatively simple measures. All we need is the public and political will to make it happen," Darwall added.

Other regions where freshwater fish face the highest risk of extinction include the lower reaches of the Danube, Dnister, Ural, and Volga rivers in Eastern Europe. (ANI)