The most comprehensive study on North American freshwater fish in 20 years brings some discouraging news this week. Many fish are in decline – 700 species representing 40 percent of all fishes in streams, lakes and rivers in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The study was conducted by a team of scientists from all three countries, led by the U.S. Geological Survey, and was reported in Fisheries.
Some regions are harder hit than others, with the most vanishing fishes listed in the Southeastern U.S., the mid-Pacific coast, and the lower Rio Grande in Mexico.
"Freshwater fish have continued to decline since the late 1970s, with the primary causes being habitat loss, dwindling range and introduction of non-native species," said Mark Myers, director of the USGS. "In addition, climate change may further affect these fish."
The upside for seafood lovers is that some freshwater fish can be raised effectively without allowing non-native species to invade habitats. Try U.S. farmed barramundi, catfish and tilapia. And use regional pocket guides for sustainable seafood recommendations tailored to your home turf.
Another way to help is to support efforts that respect our fishy friends, both marine and freshwater species, and the aquatic national treasures they live in.
An endangered holiday darter (Amicalola population). Darters are among the most threatened Southeastern fish; they have been likened to aquatic canaries. Photo by Noel Burkhead, USGS