Talking Sawfish: Interview with Michael Grant (c) Fish and Wildlife Research [...]
When people think about the world’s most threatened animals, it’s unlikely that Anguillid (freshwater) eels spring to mind. In Europe, freshwater eels are one of our least appreciated but most critically endangered species, having declined by around 95% since the 1980s. Unlike most people, as a freshwater ecologist, I spend a lot of time thinking about animals like the freshwater eel because globally, all freshwater species are facing considerable threats.
Killifish are a group of unusually small and colourful fish that have evolved particularly robust egg casings. These casings prevent the embryos from drying out and some species survive for months, even years in dry mud. This has allowed killifish to colonise and survive in the smallest temporary pools, even in an elephant’s footprint. The sudden appearance of fish in fresh puddles has given rise to the phrase ‘It rains fishes’.
In keeping with findings from across the world’s river basins, local fishermen had noticed a dramatic decline in the abundance and size of large fish species. What was also notable was that the older the fishermen that was interviewed the greater the loss appeared, particularly the plight of local sturgeon populations.
Freshwater fish share the same bodies of water that humans rely on for irrigation, food source, transportation, leisure and drinking. It makes sense that by contributing to freshwater fish conservation we help not only the fish we love but ourselves as well.
Most divers are interested in coral reefs and other marine environments, so people used to wonder why I was so keen to see brown fish in brown water! It’s true that a lot of freshwater fish aren’t all that exciting visually, but in fact there are some incredible looking fish out there in rivers and lakes, even if we don’t often get to see them.