Search for the Lost Fishes

All around the world, freshwater fish face multiple stressors that have caused populations to plummet and, for all kinds of reasons, once discovered species have fallen off our radar. These Lost Fishes are species that have gone unseen for years – even decades – and are feared possibly extinct. In order to save these species, we first need to find them.

Shoal have worked closely with Re:wild to launch a freshwater fish-focused extension to their tremendously successful Search for Lost Species campaign. In collaboration with Re:wild and the IUCN-SSC Freshwater Fish Specialist Group, Shoal has compiled a list of more than 300 fish species that are currently missing to science.


Shoal’s partners will head out on research expeditions to some of the planet’s most far-flung freshwaters, from former war zones to the world’s highest lake, to find species that haven’t been seen in over a decade. Once a species is rediscovered, we will launch a conservation project to ensure populations are protected and given full opportunity to recover.

But this is about much more than the expeditions Shoal is directly involved in. We’re calling on others to join the search and conduct their own expeditions for the Lost Fishes. Shoal, with expert input from Re:wild, is working with teams and individuals around the world to publicise their stories of rediscovery and adventure as part of this shared campaign of hope and celebration. Read more in our FAQ.

Read the Report

10 Most Wanted Lost Species

From the original master list, we narrowed down our focus to the top 10 ‘most wanted’ fishes in the world. Each is remarkable in its own right, and each has fascinating and wonderful stories to tell. Take the Haditha cavefish, which has only ever been recorded in an underground sinkhole directly underneath a shrine near Haditha, Iraq. To gain access, scientists and explorers must head through a slit on the floor of a quarry, enter a cavern and find a natural well 5m below the quarry’s stony floor. Only there, as far as science tells us, can the cavefish be found.

Or the wonderfully named ‘fat catfish’, a true anomaly: with its fatty folds of tissue circling its body like onion rings, it looks like no other species ever recorded. Or the Syr Darya shovelnose sturgeon, one of the smallest sturgeon species ever recorded: this elegant and prehistoric species sports a surprising whip-like tail filament that’s nearly as long as its body and head combined.

The Lost Fishes campaign is about adventure and exploration, seeking out surprising places to find quirky and elusive species. It’s about telling the stories of creatures that have been hidden from view. And it’s about giving them a second chance at survival. Click on each of the species below to learn more.

Annamite barb

Diyarbakir (Batman River) loach

Duck-billed buntingi

Spinach pipefish

Mesopotamian barbel

Syr Darya shovelnose sturgeon

Titicaca orestias

Haditha cavefish

Itasy cichlid