700 North American fish species risk extinction

Nearly 40% of North America's fish species are endangered, extinct, or vulnerable to extinction, according to a new report (PDF) published in Fisheries, the journal of the American Fisheries Society.

All told, 700 species are listed as "imperiled," almost twice the number of species identified as such by the previous version of this study back in 1989. Research for the study was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and covers both freshwater fish and species that migrate between fresh and salt waters.

According to the study:
  • Approximately 39% of described fish species of the continent are imperiled.
  • There are 230 vulnerable, 190 threatened, and 280 endangered extant taxa, and 61 taxa presumed extinct or extirpated from nature.
  • Of those that were imperiled in 1989, most (89%) are the same or worse in conservation status; only 6% have improved in status, and 5% were delisted for various reasons. Habitat degradation and non-indigenous species are the main threats to at-risk fishes, many of which are restricted to small ranges.

Some of the worst-off types of fish include those in the families Cyprinodontidae (88% of species imperiled); Goodeidae (83% imperiled); and Atherinopsidae (63% imperiled).

The biggest threats facing North America's fish, according to the authors, include human-caused habitat loss and fragmentation; water-flow modifications; invasive species; over-exploitation; and pollution.

An interactive map displaying the species at risk can be found here (Flash required).

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