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Freshwater fishes and other threatened but overlooked biodiversity must be new flagships for conservation (commentary)

12 / 03 / 2019, Mongabaycom News

“Why on earth would anyone give up working on tigers to focus on freshwater fish?” is the question I am asked most frequently since becoming the Executive Director of Shoal, a new initiative for freshwater biodiversity. When I took up the role of leading WWF’s Tigers Alive Initiative nine years ago, I may have thought the same. But after only five months getting Shoal ready for its launch on March 1, I discovered that freshwater species are loved as broadly and as passionately as tigers — though by a quite different set of people. Those freshwater nature supporters, however, have had little engagement in formal conservation, while freshwater species, under threat from a myriad of sources, have largely been overlooked and neglected by most conservation organizations. Many successful projects have been launched by anglers, water managers, fisheries, and aquarists, but few have been acknowledged by or merged within more mainstream conservation efforts. Wetlands are in decline across the world and the species that are dependent on them are in crisis. More than 15,000 freshwater fish species have been described to science. Many more are added each year. Of the known freshwater fishes, approximately 54 percent have been assessed for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. One-third of these species are considered to be under threat of extinction. The situation is certainly a lot worse than even this scant assessment portrays — and that is only for fishes. When it comes to other freshwater species, such as shrimps or plants,…

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