A comprehensive assessment of Caribbean freshwater fishes recently revealed that 41% of the 79 species assessed are threatened with extinction, bringing conservationists one step closer to a global freshwater fish extinction assessment. The new assessment sheds light on common threats, including the spread of invasive species, pollution, deforestation, and agricultural development. It further highlights biodiversity hotspots that are in need of stronger protection, and serves as a strong basis for future conservation efforts in Caribbean freshwater ecosystems.
One species of particular interest to conservationists is the Cuban Gar, the largest species of freshwater fish in the Caribbean. These predatory giants were once widespread in Cuba’s Zapata Swamp, but drastic declines in abundance due to the invasive African Walking Catfish has warranted their assessment as Critically Endangered. Another region is Lake Miragoane on the Tiburon Peninsula in southwestern Haiti, where an endemic species flock of livebearing fishes is threatened by widespread deforestation and watershed mismanagement.
The majority of freshwater fish diversity in the Caribbean is concentrated on the region’s largest islands of Cuba and Hispaniola, with fewer endemics in the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago.
For more information about the conservation status of this unique group of freshwater fishes, please visit www.iucnredlist.org to search by species, or read the full press release here.