Nearly 40 percent of the fish in North American rivers, lakes and streamsare in serious decline and at risk of disappearing, according to the most detailed survey of freshwater species conducted in nearly two decades.
One Florida species, the tiny Okaloosa darter, largely confined to creeks on a Panhandle military base, ranks among the rare examples of a fish on the rebound.
The assessment, led by the U.S. Geological Survey and published in the August edition of the journal Fisheries, shows the number of fish in jeopardy has nearly doubled to 700 from the last major assessment in 1989. There are 280 classified as endangered or the most at-risk, 190 threatened and 230 vulnerable. The number presumed extinct also grew from 40 to 61.
Threats vary, but many fish and the water bodies they live in are under widening assaults from development, pollution, droughts and public demands for water.
Many at-risk fish are tiny minnows or obscure varieties confined to small areas, but such broad declines from Canada to Mexico reflect ecological problems that can impact animals further up the food chain, said Howard Jelks, a fish biologist for USGS and the report's senior author.
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