Conservation of freshwater fish in the British Isles: The current status and biology of threatened species

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Abstract

1. The objective of this paper is to review the status of all freshwater fishes in the British Isles and to identify theatened species, races and communities which are in need of conservation.

2. Using objective criteria to assess the degree of threat, two of the 55 freshwater species known in the British Isles are thought to be extinct here and eight are believed to be under significant threat.

3. The biology of these ten species is reviewed. They are: Sturgeon Acipenser sturio, Allis Shad Alosa alosa, Twaite Shad Alosa fallax, Arctic Charr Salvelinus alpinus, Houting Coregonus oxyrinchus (extinct), Powan Coregonus lavaretus, Pollan Coregonus autumnalis, Vendace Coregonus albula, Smelt Osmerus eperlanus and Burbot Lota lota (extinct).

4. In addition, there are several races of commoner species which are believed to be worthy of special conservation measures. These fish include the purely freshwater race of River Lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis in Loch Lomond, dwarf Brook Lampreys Lampetra planeri in the Inner Hebrides, spineless Three-spined Sticklebacks Gasterosteus aculeatus in the Outer Hebrides and a number of important races of Brown Trout Salmo trutta in various waters in Ireland and Scotland.

5. There is also a range of fish communities in individual rivers and lakes which merit conservation attention. These are important for a variety of reasons, including high (and very low) diversity, unique assemblages, pristine stocks and highly characteristic communities.

6. The major threats to these species and communities include industrial and domestic pollution, acidification, land use changes, river barriers, drainage, fish farming, fishery management and the introduction of new species.

7. The identification of these threatened fishes and important freshwater sites provides a foundation for a review of existing protection in the British Isles and a major fish conservation management programme. These will be described in subsequent papers.

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