Dr Noble points out that a further 25 species were categorized as ‘Least Concern’, however, he warns these should not be overlooked as this does not necessarily mean there is no concern, as some are thought to be considerably less abundant than they were. For other species there is a paucity of data with which to estimate population sizes or measure rates of change. Steps need to be taken to ensure that species of conservation importance don’t join the growing list of threatened species.
This research highlights the threats to native freshwater and migratory fishes in our rivers and lakes and Dr Noble says it is an “important barometer” of environmental quality and biodiversity. He adds: “It is a red flag and formalising the assessment of the species in our waters is an important step in protecting freshwater environments.”
The IUCN Red List process works by assessing species distribution, population size and population change over a 10-year or three-generation time period (whichever is longer). Dr Noble and his colleagues believe that threatened fishes and species of conservation importance need to be monitored regularly and over long time periods to understand population change and that ‘significant investment’ needs to be made to ensure that both iconic and lesser-known fish species receive appropriate protection.
Dave Ottewell from Natural England stated: “We often think of individual well-known, iconic fish species when considering conservation actions, however, what this research highlights is the need to consider our whole native fish community and how the restoration of their supporting freshwater habitats is essential if we are to conserve them effectively, for the long-term.
That's why our Species Recovery Programme is improving strongholds for wildlife by investing in long-term species recovery, restoring more than 500,000 hectares of wildlife habitat to increase species abundance as set out in the Environmental Improvement Plan.".
Tristan Hatton-Ellis, from Natural Resources Wales, said: “This is the first ever Red List for freshwater fish, both in Britain and Wales. We already knew that our fish are struggling in the face of threats to our rivers and lakes such as climate change, water pollution and barriers to migration. This systematic and objective piece of work will focus and prioritise our conservation policy and actions and give further impetus to our strategic fish conservation projects around Wales.”
Colin Bean, NatureScot’s Fish and Fisheries Interactions Manager, said: “The completion of a Red List for British freshwater fish is long overdue, and this assessment will be of enormous help in identifying what conservation action we must take to halt the decline of Britain’s most vulnerable species. Atlantic salmon are - in Scotland as elsewhere - experiencing significant declines in the number of returning adult fish.