Freshwater Fish Are Facing Extinction — These Conservation Groups Are Working to Save Them

Lizzy Rosenberg - Author

Feb. 24 2021, Published 12:09 p.m. ET

Freshwater Fish Conservation
Source: Getty Images

Over the last several decades, human activity has significantly lowered the planet's air quality, raised global temperatures, and damaged some of the most sacred natural lands with deforestation. Now, studies are showing that due to water pollution, overfishing, and rising river temperatures, one-third of the planet's freshwater fish population is facing extinction, according to a report from CBS — this could drastically affect biodiversity, and the livelihoods of those who rely on them.

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Luckily, though, there are several conservation efforts being made to save the freshwater fish — keep reading for more on what certain organizations are doing, and how you can potentially help conserve the planet's freshwater fish population.

freshwater fish extinct
Source: Getty Images

Why are freshwater fish facing extinction?

Since 1970, according to The Guardian, migratory freshwater fish populations have declined by 76 percent, with 16 species that went extinct in the last year alone. Biodiversity in freshwater has diminished two times faster than that of oceans or rainforests, and out of about 10,000 freshwater species, about 30 percent (or one-third) are currently at risk of total extinction. 

Most large fish that used to roam freshwater have gone completely extinct. The decline is mostly due to pollution, poor fishing practices, and climate change. Irrigation systems also disrupt the flow of rivers, which affects migratory fish such as salmon. A coalition of 16 conservation groups working to save the freshwater fish populations made these observations in a report called The World’s Forgotten Fishes — read about them, below.

Alliance for Freshwater Life

Alliance for Freshwater Life's mission is to promote freshwater conservation and biodiversity by researching, educating, and working to change government policies. If you're interested in joining the team, the group is currently hiring Berlin-based environmentalists who are interested in joining efforts to save the planet.

Alliance for Inland Fisheries

Alliance for Inland Fisheries promotes sustainable and responsible freshwater fishing, especially for low-income countries and communities that rely on them for food and jobs. The group is incredibly involved in research, policy-making, and fundraising — check out current projects on the group's website.

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Conservation International

Conservation International looks to protect natural lands of all kinds, through fieldwork, policy-making, and fundraising. In terms of the freshwater issues, Conservation International is working to restore ecosystems to help those who depend on freshwater fish. The group is also working to effectively build a bridge between conservation and development, to promote biodiversity while considering communities who rely on them for food and work.

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Fisheries Conservation Foundation

Fisheries Conservation Foundation is a nonprofit organization that researches fisheries and fishing policies from a scientific standpoint, to ensure freshwater fishing policies are as sustainable as possible. The organization fundraises to give communities the resources they need to live off freshwaters, while simultaneously promoting biodiversity.

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Freshwaters Illustrated

Freshwaters Illustrated promotes environmental education by capturing underwater biodiversity through photography and film — Freshwaters Illustrated's work is total "nature porn" and the group is always seeking out new members and donations, if you have extra time or money to spare.

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Global Wildlife Conservation

Global Wildlife Conservation is constantly doing fieldwork to research biodiversity and to promote sustainable practices. Follow the group on social media to stay updated with its findings, or donate to the organization to fund its research projects.

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InFish takes steps to improve communities' relationships with local ecosystems by working to implement sustainable practices. InFish researches potential issues and work to educate and make policy changes.

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The IUCN works to conserve natural lands worldwide, and right now, the group is taking a stand to protect freshwater and to give communities the resources they need to fish sustainably. The IUCN also looks at the freshwater crisis from a climate change standpoint, working to promote the transition to cleaner means of energy from the standpoint of endangered freshwater fish.

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The Sustainable Seafood Coalition

Source: Getty Images

The Sustainable Seafood Coalition is a U.K.-based organization that was created in 2011 to ensure a healthy future for oceans and freshwaters around the world. Right now, the coalition's main focus is to ensure that the U.K. transitions to solely rely on sustainable seafood, and the group is doing so by confronting issues and influence change in supply chain practice.

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Mahseer Trust

Mahseer Trust is a U.K. charity whose mission is to conserve the mahseer, a family of fish that is generally found in freshwater rivers in South and Southeast Asia. The group works to engage communities and inspire positive change by educating locals and implementing resources for sustainable fishing practices.

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Shoal Conservation is an organization that gives extra attention and support to local freshwaters, by taking on site-specific conservation-related interventions. You can donate to Shoal's efforts and sign up for more information and to stay up-to-date with what the group is working on.

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Synchronicity Earth

Synchronicity Earth is a U.K.-based wildlife conservation charity that brings to light several issues plaguing planet Earth. It is particularly research-driven, and does a lot of fundraising to put conservation efforts into action. According to the website, the group "analyze[s] gaps in conservation action and funding." 

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The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy looks at conservation from a wide standpoint — it works on tackling climate change, protecting land and water, providing food and water sustainably, and building healthy cities. The Nature Conservancy creates reports and presents research-backed data to identify and approach problems in communities worldwide, making the group a great member to tackle the freshwater issue.

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World Fish Migration Foundation

World Fish Migration Foundation is dedicated to connecting people with freshwater ecosystems in a sustainable and healthy manner. The group aims to raise awareness regarding issues that freshwater fish face on a regular basis, and even made a documentary, called Love Flows, which is available to watch on YouTube. 

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WWF, or the World Wildlife Fund, is a major organization dedicated to researching and implementing conservation efforts. The team has been incredibly involved with creating the World's Forgotten Fishes coalition, and released the full report on its website.

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The Zoological Society of London

Despite the baggage that comes with zoos, The Zoological Society of London has developed a special program for marine and freshwater conservation, working alongside local U.K. and international organizations to combat the issues freshwater ecosystems face on a global scale.

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