World's freshwater fish at risk of extinction, experts say. Here's how it could affect you

Zach Fuentes Image
Tuesday, December 12, 2023
World's freshwater fish at risk of extinction, experts say
Concerning findings about the world's freshwater fish population, 25% are in danger of extinction.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Concerning findings about the world's freshwater fish population, 25% are in danger of extinction according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

It's a statistic that local experts say Californians have to care about moving forward.

It comes as an update to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The IUCN said the update is part of the first comprehensive assessment of the word's freshwater fish population, but local experts say the findings are, unfortunately, not surprising.

"It's probably an underestimate," said UC Davis Professor in Fish Ecology, Andrew Rypel who is also director at the Center for Watershed Sciences, "Our estimate is that about 83% of California fish are vulnerable to extinction in some sort of way. So if we were to put the California number on that IUCN number, it would be much, much higher."

MORE: 21 species declared extinct, delisted from Endangered Species Act

A problem that some say doesn't just put California's environment at risk but also the economy.

"Salmon, just from an economic perspective, contribute, $1.4 billion to the California economy," said Scott Artis, executive director of the Golden State Salmon Association.

He says that while salmon in some parts of the state are doing well, the opposite is seen in other areas keeping them at high risk.

"People should care," Artis said, "Because this is a species that touches not just people, but the entire environment. We're talking communities, culture, jobs, businesses."

MORE: NorCal's Dungeness crab season delayed for 3rd time this year, Fish and Wildlife says

The commercial delay is through at least Dec. 21, aiming to protect whales and leatherback sea turtles from becoming entangled in crab fishing gear.

Both the IUCN and Professor Rypel link some of the same reasons to the high risk of extinction.

That includes the warming of waters from climate change, changes to the natural flow of rivers along with invasive species and overfishing.

"All of these things sort of combine to create this ball of environmental stress for fish that that ultimately hurts them," Rypel said.

Here locally, Artis says there's hope in the many organizations passionate about local salmon and fish that have come together, but more is needed from state water policy makers.

"This is the time to fight, and fight for those salmon those jobs and those people that rely on it," Artis said.

Rypel says using science as a tool will be critical going forward and that humans must be good stewards of land and local waterways.

"Working together," Rypel said, "That's the name of the game."

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