London: British scientists have warned that freshwater fish have become the most endangered group of animals on the planet, with more than a third threatened with extinction.
Among those at the greatest risk of dying out are several species from rivers and lakes in UK including the European eel, Shetland charr and many little known fish that have become isolated in remote waterways in Wales and Scotland.
Others critically endangered include types of sturgeon, which provide some of the world’s most expensive caviar, and giant river dwellers such as the Mekong giant catfish and freshwater stingray, which can grow as long as 15 feet.
Human activities such as overfishing, pollution and construction have been blamed for pushing so many species to the brink of extinction.
They also warn that the loss of the fish could have serious implications for humans, as billions of people rely upon freshwater fish for food and income.
The alarming status of the species has been revealed in interim results from the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List assessment of freshwater fish.
“There are still some big gaps in our knowledge, but of the 5,685 species that have been assessed, 36 per cent of them are threatened,” the Telegraph quoted Dr William Darwall, manager of the freshwater unit at the IUCN in Cambridge, as saying.
“Compared to mammals, where 21 per cent are threatened, and birds, where 12 per cent are threatened, it is clear that fresh water ecosystems are among the most threatened in the world,” he added.
The preliminary results of the assessment were revealed at the annual conference of the Fisheries Society of the British Isles at Bournemouth University.