New Red List: Trout is now also endangered

Trout

The trout and 37 other freshwater fish are now considered endangered in Germany. © abadonian/ iStock

The latest update to the Red List of endangered freshwater fish and lampreys in Germany has just been published - and it paints a rather bleak picture. 38 fish species are now endangered in this country, compared to 22 15 years ago. The threatened freshwater fish even include species that were actually considered extremely numerous, including trout. There are also some species that only occur in Germany.

The endangered status of animals and plants is not only recorded worldwide, but also at the federal level. Updated versions of these German Red Lists for animals, plants and fungi appear around every ten years. The latest Red List of freshwater fish and lampreys has now been published. It was compiled by experts from the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research, the Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, the Red List Center and representatives from all federal states.

Ten percent of native species extinct

The new Red List shows: Things are bad for Germany's freshwater fish and lampreys. More than half of them are now either endangered or even extinct. Expressed in concrete terms, 38 species are currently endangered, compared to 22 in 2009. Eleven fish species are even acutely threatened with extinction, including the Atlantic salmon and the sea lamprey. Nine species have already suffered this fate in this country, for example the European sturgeon and the Lake Constance kilch. This means that ten percent of the native freshwater fish and lampreys are now considered extinct. For comparison: the European average is just 2.5 percent.

The endangered species category also brings some negative surprises. Around seven of the species listed there are considered endemic species that only occur in Germany. If they die out in this country, these species will also disappear completely worldwide. This category includes, for example, the Ammersee whitefish and the Fontane whitefish, but also the Chiemsee whitefish and Schaalsee whitefish. Another reason for concern: 30 percent of those species that were once abundant in Germany are now considered endangered. These include the bream, which is popular with anglers and whose populations have been declining for 20 years. But trout have now also been classified as endangered for the first time because their populations are declining in five federal states.

Climate change and human intervention are to blame

The heat-sensitive trout are particularly affected by the recent drought and heat years, as Jörg Freyhof from the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin explains. Artificial barriers such as weirs and sluices are particularly hard on the salmon. They often represent insurmountable obstacles for it on its migration to its spawning grounds. Unfortunately, other fish suffer from river straightening, which in many places causes valuable habitats such as tributaries and floodplains to disappear. In addition, there is water pollution such as that which led to the dramatic fish deaths in the Oder in 2022. The spread of invasive species such as rainbow trout or sunfish also harms native fish. For example, due to increasing competition, they find less food, end up becoming prey to exotic animals, or become infected with dangerous diseases.

But it still might not be too late for Germany's freshwater fish and lampreys: “The interim recovery of fish stocks at the end of the 20th century through the improvement of the water quality of our waters has shown that with the right measures, success in species protection can be achieved. However, further targeted efforts are necessary to preserve native species and renaturalize their habitats,” says Sabine Riewenherm, President of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation.

Source: Federal Agency for Nature Conservation; Red List of Freshwater Fish and Lampreys (PDF)

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