Jan 7, 2009

Endangered Species - Fish

Endangered Fish
It's hard to say how fish are faring as a whole, as only 10 percent of the nearly 30,000 known fish species have been evaluated for inclusion in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Tellingly, nearly half those surveyed are now considered threatened or endangered.

Overfishing is likely the leading cause of fish declines, followed closely by habitat loss and pollution. Some of the most unique fish species in the world are facing imminent extinction, including the ancient coelacanth and the bizarre smalltooth sawfish. Learn about them here.


Catfish are among the world's most abundant and diverse freshwater fish. Like many catfish species, the Andean catfish has barbels around the mouth that contain taste buds that help the animal find food at night. The Andean catfish is native to the rivers and streams in the mountains of Ecuador, and is endangered due to pollution, fishing and loss of suitable habitat.

IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
Major Threats: Pollution, fishing and habitat loss
Habitat: Mountainous rivers and streams
Location: Ecuador
Diet: Fish, frogs, snails, algae and other aquatic species

Angel sharks are large, ray-like fish that spend most of their time hiding in the mud and silt of the ocean floor. As fish and other animals pass by, the angel shark snaps them up in their trap-like jaws. This species was once abundant in the northeastern Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Black seas, but is now very rare. Primary threats to the angel shark include being taken as bycatch and getting caught in fishing nets and lines.

IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
Major Threats: Being taken as bycatch and getting caught in fishing nets and lines
Habitat: Temperate and tropical seas
Location: Worldwide oceans
Diet: Fish, crustaceans and mollusks

The Borneo shark is extremely rare and known by only a few specimens. It lives in the shallow coastal waters of the South Pacific Ocean. It is viviparous, meaning it gives birth to live young. Like most sharks, the Borneo shark is a successful hunter and has few natural predators. Humans are one exception and the Borneo shark is currently threatened by fishing operations.

IUCN Status: Endangered
Major Threat: Fishing operations
Habitat: Shallow coastal waters
Location: Indo-Western Pacific Ocean
Diet: Unknown

The Nassau grouper is a large, predatory coral reef fish that is found in the western Atlantic Ocean, Florida Keys, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. It has a habit of visiting cleaning stations on coral reefs, where wrasse fish pick parasites out of its mouth and gills. It also camouflages itself in order to ambush prey. The Nassau grouper is in serious decline due to fishing and loss of coral reef habitat.

IUCN Status: Endangered
Major Threat: Fishing and habitat loss
Habitat: Coral reefs
Location: Western Atlantic Ocean, Florida Keys, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea
Diet: Mainly other fish and crabs

The Russian sturgeon is a large, bony fish that can reach a length of more than 6 feet. It lives in salt water and travels upriver to spawn, which makes it vulnerable to habitat loss on multiple fronts, including hydroelectric dams that create barriers to spawning grounds, pollution in both its freshwater and saltwater homes, and being heavily fished for its meat and eggs, which are used to make caviar.

IUCN Status: Endangered
Major Threat: Overfishing, pollution and habitat loss
Habitat: Seas and large rivers
Location: Black Sea, Caspian Sea and adjacent river systems
Diet: Mainly mollusks

Like sharks, skates and rays, sawfish have skeletons made of cartilage rather than bone. The smalltooth sawfish is a long, sleek fish that occurs in shallow coastal and estuarine waters in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as well as the Gulf of Mexico. It also has a long, flattened snout lined with rows of teeth that it uses to locate and subdue prey. In addition to facing the threat of hunting, pollution and habitat loss, it is extremely vulnerable to being caught in fishing lines.

IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
USFWS Status: Endangered
Major Threats: Hunting, pollution, habitat loss and being caught in fishing lines
Habitat: Shallow coastal and estuarine waters
Location: Altantic and Pacific oceans and the Gulf of Mexico
Diet: Mainly fish and some crustaceans


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