Number of Australia’s Fish Species Considered Critically Endangered Doubles
The amount of critically endangered fish species in Australia has recently doubled after nine species were newly categorized as critically endangered in March. All nine species are part of the galaxias genus, and an additional tenth galaxias species has been labeled as endangered.
The findings present an urgent need to conserve these species. One major problem for these fish is the presence of invasive species, particularly brown and rainbow trout. Invasive fish species can crowd the critically endangered species into smaller portions of their original range or separate populations while also competing for resources.
“If we are serious about stopping extinctions, then we need to tackle the major threats that are driving declines of our native animals,” James Trezise, conservation director at Australia’s Invasive Species Council, told The Guardian. “Scientists have recommended a threat abatement plan be established for freshwater pest fish, yet this hasn’t happened.”
The newly listed fish species include short-tail galaxias, tapered galaxias, East Gippsland galaxias and West Gippsland galaxias. Galaxiids, also known as mountain minnows, are often mistaken to be the same species, which can hinder conservation efforts. There are currently more than 40 different species of galaxiids in Australia, with many of them under threat, including the nine species now listed as critically endangered.
The nine species join another nine species for a total of 18 fish species officially recognized as critically endangered in Australia. According to Trezise, the species have greater than a 50% chance of going extinct within just two decades.
Because invasive species force the critically endangered species into small areas, these vulnerable populations are at greater risk from natural disasters, like flooding, drought or wildfires, and inbreeding. Extreme weather events are becoming more of a risk to galaxiids as climate change worsens, warned the Arthur Rylah Institute, which has been involved with galaxiid research and conservation for over 30 years.
Experts believe saving these species from extinction will require captive breeding programs and translocations. Together, these actions can help establish new populations for the species, giving them better protection from being wiped out by a single drought, flood or other event.
“Our target of zero new extinctions includes our native freshwater fish,” said Tanya Plibersek, Australia’s Minister for the Environment and Water, as reported by The Guardian. “Listing these 10 galaxiid species under national environmental law is a critical step to increase efforts to protect and restore these precious populations.”
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