Extinction risks and threats facing the freshwater fishes of Britain

A new paper has just been published in Aquatic Conservation by Andy D. Nunn,  Rachel F. Ainsworth,  Silas Walton,  Colin W. Bean,  Tristan W. Hatton-Ellis,  Andy Brown,  Rob Evans,  Allison Atterborne,  Dave Ottewell,  Richard A.A. Noble

Nunn, A.D., Ainsworth, R.F., Walton, S., Bean, C.W., Hatton-Ellis, T.W., Brown, A. et al. (2023). Extinction risks and threats facing the freshwater fishes of Britain. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1002/aqc.40140


  1. Extinctions occur naturally in all environments, but rates have accelerated rapidly during the Anthropocene, especially in fresh water. Despite supporting many fish species of conservation importance, there has never been a formal assessment of their extinction risks in Britain, which has impeded their inclusion in relevant legislation and policy. This study therefore used the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species™ Categories and Criteria to conduct the first systematic assessment of the extinction risks and threats facing the native freshwater and diadromous fishes of Britain. In addition, national assessments were produced for England, Scotland and Wales, reflecting the level at which environmental policy decisions are taken in Britain.
  2. Seven species were categorized as being threatened with extinction at the regional level, with European eel Anguilla anguilla and allis shad Alosa alosa classified as Critically Endangered, Atlantic salmon Salmo salar, vendace Coregonus albula and European whitefish Coregonus lavaretus classified as Endangered, and Arctic charr Salvelinus alpinus and twaite shad Alosa fallax classified as Vulnerable. In addition, burbot Lota lota was classified as Regionally Extinct, ferox trout Salmo ferox was categorized as Data Deficient, and 25 species were categorized as Least Concern. European sturgeon Acipenser sturio and houting Coregonus oxyrinchus, although probably native, qualified as only vagrants in fresh water, so were categorized as Not Applicable.
  3. The assessments provide objective baselines against which future changes can be determined, and a key evidence base to support policy and management decisions for the conservation of freshwater and diadromous fish species and their habitats in Britain. It is recommended that the assessments are repeated every 10 years, which would enable changes in conservation status, the effectiveness of policies and where targeted interventions may be required to be examined using the Red List Index.