FREYHOF, J. & BROOKS, E. (2011)

European Red List of Freshwater Fishes.

viii + 60 Seiten, mit Grafiken, Farbfotos, Verbreitungskarten und Tabellen.
Publications Office of the European Union, Luxemburg. ISBN 978-92-79-20200-1; doi:10.2779/85903.

Executive Summary:

Aim: The European Red List is a review of the conservation status of c. 6,000 European species to date (dragonflies, butterflies, freshwater fishes, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and selected groups of beetles, molluscs, and vascular plants) according to IUCN regional Red Listing guidelines. It identifies those species that are threatened with extinction at the regional level – in order that appropriate conservation action can be taken to improve their status. This Red List publication summarizes the results for all described native European freshwater fishes and lampreys (hereafter referred to as just freshwater fishes).

Scope: All species of freshwater fishes recorded from European freshwater waters are included. Marine migrants and species of brackish waters are also included if they regularly enter freshwater habitats. Species are only included if the record is based on individuals with locality data and reliable identification.

Red List assessments were made at two regional levels: for geographical Europe, and for the 27 current Member States of the European Union. The distribution of freshwater fishes is considered at the sub-river basin level. Therefore the distribution included here sometimes extends beyond the political boundaries.

Status assessment: The status of all species was assessed using the IUCN Red List Criteria, which are the world’s most widely accepted system for measuring extinction risk. All assessments followed the Guidelines for Application of IUCN Red List Criteria at Regional Levels.

The status of species endemic to the Mediterranean basin is based on evaluations made during an IUCN workshop held in Malaga (Spain) in December 2004. All European sturgeons were assessed at a workshop held in Wuhan (China), during the 6th International Symposium on Sturgeon in October 2009. The status of all other European species has been evaluated when preparing the Handbook of European Freshwater Fishes during an IUCN workshop held in Berlin (Germany) in December 2006, in coordination with the IUCN Freshwater Biodiversity Assessment Unit. All species present in the 27 Member States of the EU were re-assessed for their regional conservation status in 2010. Assessments are available on the European Red List website and data portal: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/conservation/species/redlist and http://www.iucnredlist.org/europe.

The status of all European freshwater fish species has been reviewed. For certain species groups of Mediterranean river basins, the taxonomy has been revised since the  2004 Malaga workshop, requiring an update of their Red List status. Also, several species have been newly described since 2007. All this is leading to an improved understanding of their conservation status. Up-to-date information for all these species is included in this report. Evaluations have mostly been done through the formal IUCN validation procedure, except for a few species still awaiting comments by relevant specialist groups of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.

Freshwater fishes in Europe: As part of this Red List assessment, 531 native and described European species have been assessed, of which 381 are present in the 27 Member States of the European Union. Almost 80% of the European species are endemic to Europe (which means that they are unique to Europe and are found nowhere else in the world). About 50% of the species found in the 27 Member States of the EU are endemic to the EU. Seven species occur only marginally on the European continent, and are considered as Not Applicable in this assessment.

Results: Overall, at least 37% of Europe’s freshwater fishes are threatened at a continental scale, and 39% are threatened at the EU 27 level. A further 4% of freshwater fishes are considered Near Threatened. This is one of the highest threat levels of any major taxonomic group assessed to date for Europe. The conservation status of Europe’s eight sturgeon species is particularly worrying: all but one are Critically Endangered. By comparison, 44% of freshwater molluscs, 23% of amphibians, 19% of reptiles, 15% of mammals and dragonflies, 13% of birds, 9% of butterflies and 7% of aquatic plants are threatened at the European level.

Despite a lack of good trend data for certain countries, the current assessment shows that about 17% of Europe’s freshwater fish species have declining populations, whereas only 1% are on the increase, and 6% are considered stable. For the remaining 76%, the current level of knowledge is insufficient to define their population trends.

The highest levels of species diversity are found in the lower parts of the rivers draining into the Black and Caspian Seas. However, a number of species with restricted ranges are also encountered in the Alps, in Great Britain and Ireland, and around the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Most of the threatened species are confined to certain areas in southern Europe.

Most freshwater fishes are in some way affected by pollution of domestic, industrial and agricultural origin. Another primary threat to Europe’s freshwater fishes is habitat loss due to over-abstraction of water. Additional major threats are the introduction of alien species, overfishing (particularly in the larger rivers of Eastern Europe) and a massive increase in the construction of dams, blocking migration and altering stream habitats.

Conclusions and recommendations:

  • Freshwater fishes are one of the most highly threatened species groups in Europe. At least 37% of all European species are threatened at a continental scale, and 39% are threatened at the EU 27 level. Of all assessed species groups, this level of threat is second only to the one for freshwater molluscs. The conservation status of Europe’s eight sturgeon species is particularly worrying: all but one are Critically Endangered.
  • There is an ongoing extinction crisis affecting Europe’s freshwater fishes. At least 13 species are now globally Extinct. Five additional species are Possibly Extinct, but the information is currently inadequate to certify their extinction. Furthermore, several freshwater fish species are currently under immediate threat of extinction, amongst them several species of sturgeons, and certain species of the Mediterranean river basins.
  • The high overall threat level of Europe’s freshwater fishes is an indicator for the exceptional vulnerability of Europe’s freshwater habitats, and of their poor state of protection. The main threats to Europe’s freshwater fishes are pollution, habitat loss due to over-abstraction of water, and the introduction of alien species. Alien species introduction, especially where these are of European origin, is almost totally uncontrolled. The main vectors of alien species introduction are recreational fisheries and the connection of formerly separate river basins by manmade canals.
  • An increased frequency and intensity of droughts is already impacting freshwater systems and the species that rely on them, especially in the Mediterranean region. The predicted impact of climate change is likely to worsen the situation in the future.
  • While many freshwater fishes are protected under national legislation or under the EU Habitats Directive, the majority of threatened species still remain unprotected. Furthermore, where legal protection does exist, it often remains ineffective against threats such as alien species introduction or water abstraction.
  • In order to improve the conservation status of European freshwater fishes and to reverse their decline, ambitious conservation actions are urgently needed. In particular: ensuring adequate protection and management of key freshwater habitats and of their surrounding areas, drawing up and implementing Species Action Plans for the most threatened species, establishing monitoring and ex-situ programmes, finding appropriate means to limit further alien species introductions, especially by anglers, and revising national and European legislation, adding species identified as threatened where needed.
  • The identification, establishment and management of a network of Freshwater Key Biodiversity Areas in Europe is urgently needed.
  • This project contributes to improving and updating the coverage of fishes on the global IUCN Red List, thanks to the assessment of endemic European freshwater fishes.


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