Massive decline in migratory freshwater fish populations could threaten livelihoods of millions warns new report.

With hydropower, overfishing, climate change and pollution on the rise, monitored populations of migratory freshwater fish species have plummeted by 76% on average since 1970, according to the first comprehensive global report on the status of freshwater migratory fish, issued today by the World Fish Migration Foundation and Zoological Society of London. Migratory fish, such as salmon, trout and Amazonian catfish, are vital to meet the food security needs, as well as support the livelihoods of millions of people around the world. They also play a critical role in keeping our rivers, lakes and wetlands healthy by supporting a complex food web. Now, their populations are under immense threat from human-made impacts’ and require urgent action to halt and then reverse the alarming decline.

The report reveals a 76% average decline in populations* for the period of 1970 to 2016 including a staggering average decline of 93% in Europe. This is higher than the rate observed in terrestrial and marine species but in line with the overall decline observed for freshwater vertebrate populations as 1 a whole (83%) . Arjan Berkhuysen, Managing Director of the World Fish Migration Foundation says, “Catastrophic losses in migratory fish populations show we cannot continue destroying our rivers. This will have immense consequences for people and nature across the globe. We can and need to act now before these keystone species are lost for good.”

Habitat degradation, alteration, and loss account for approximately half of the threats to migratory fish. Wetlands are essential habitats for migratory fish species, but, globally, wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests2, while dams and other river barriers block fish from reaching their mating or feeding grounds and disrupt their life cycles.

  •  Globally, monitored populations of migratory freshwater fish have declined by an average of 76% between 1970 and 2016. Average declines have been more pronounced in Europe (-93%) and Latin America & Caribbean (-84%).
  • Lower declines in North America (-28%) suggest that management of fisheries could result in a lower average decline in abundance.
  • The biggest drivers of population decline are habitat degradation, alteration and loss, and over-exploitation. All of these are inextricably linked to human use and impact.

You can download the report here.