Illegal fishing and serious water pollution have led to the complete disappearance of many fish species. What are those fish species? In this article, we will reveal the top endangered fish species.
Here is a list of endangered fish species that need strict conservation measures:
1. Atlantic halibut
The Atlantic halibut, one of the endangered fish species, is the largest flatfish species. They are found in the New England region of the Atlantic Ocean. This species has a lifespan of 50 years and can reach a length of 15 feet (4.5 meters) and weigh up to 700 pounds (318 kg).
However, due to their slow development, this fish species does not reach sexual maturity until it is 10 to 14 years old, making it particularly vulnerable to overfishing. While Atlantic Halibut are typically caught with hook and line, they are often caught as by catch in bottom trawl fisheries. The IUCN classifies them as endangered, and their numbers are not expected to recover in the near future.
This has prompted the US government to manage Atlantic Halibut fishing activities in its coastal waters. The Atlantic Halibut reserve is currently at a very low level, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
2. Beluga Sturgeon
The Beluga Sturgeon is famous in cuisine for its delicious flesh and its eggs, which are used to make irresistible caviar. This fish species originates from the Caspian Sea, with a history dating back over 200 million years. It can grow up to 24 feet (7 meters) in length, weigh over 3,500 pounds (1,588 kg), and live up to 100 years old.
Due to the popularity and demand for Beluga Sturgeon caviar, they have been overfished, often caught with gillnets, which poses a significant threat to the species. This is particularly problematic because males reach sexual maturity at 10-15 years old and females at 15-18 years old, with a generation length estimated at 20-25 years.
In addition to overfishing pressure, Beluga Sturgeon also face habitat loss, with 90% of their historical spawning area lost over the past few decades. Because of these pressures, Beluga Sturgeon are critically endangered, and their population is expected to continue to decline.
Statistics from the World Wildlife Fund show that in 1992, 573 tons (520 tons) of beluga were caught, while in 2007, 36 tons (33 tons) were caught, meaning the catch volume decreased by 93%. In 2020, 7,000 farmed beluga sturgeon were released into the Danube River to help reverse this population decline.
3. Southern Bluefin Tuna
Southern Bluefin Tuna is also on the list of fish species at risk of extinction in recent years.
The origin of this species is found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. They can grow up to 8 feet (2.4 meters) long, weigh up to 573 pounds (260 kg) and live to at least 40 years old. Southern Bluefin Tuna has been classified is critically endangered, as estimated reproductive biomass has decreased by about 85% from 1973 to 2009.
The species has been heavily overfished since the 1950s, thanks to the popularity of sushi worldwide. The population is estimated to decrease to below 500 mature individuals in the next 100 years if current fishing practices continue.
4. Orange Sea Bream
This fish species is also known as the Orange Roughy. It is characterized by its orange color and is found mostly off the coasts of New Zealand, Australia, Namibia, and the northeastern regions of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans-Pacific.
It can live up to 140 years old and reach sexual maturity at 20 to 32 years old, making it a prime target for overfishing. The pressure from overfishing is exacerbated by the trend of targeting aggregating fish during feeding and spawning, resulting in the decimation of entire generations.
Orange Roughy is sold both as skin-on and fillets, fresh or frozen, and is considered a delicacy in restaurants in the United States. Some other organizations have recognized a significant decline in the species’ population after just 25 years of commercial exploitation. They can grow up to 2.5 feet (76 cm) in length and weigh up to 15 pounds (6.8 kg).
5. Giant Mekong catfish
This fish species is also on the list of the most endangered fish species today. This species is enormous and lives in the Mekong River.
The easily recognizable features of this fish are its large and flat head, wide mouth with two long barbels on the upper jaw, small dorsal fin and elongated ventral fins that reach the tail fin.
A mature Mekong giant catfish can reach a size of 3 meters and weigh 300 kg. Currently, in the lower reaches of the Mekong River, which flows through 4 Southeast Asian countries including Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, the population of this species is alarmingly decreasing.
Above is the list of endangered fish species that we have detailed. We hope that this article will improve knowledge for readers and promote marine conservation activities in the future.