Mediterranean Endemic Fish

“Freshwater fish are indicators of the health of our freshwater ecosystems. The assessment provides the best possible scientific consensus concerning the species' status in the Mediterranean. This report will help prioritise sites to be included in regional research programmes, and identify internationally important sites for biodiversity”, comments Jamie Skinner, ex-Director of the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation.


The conservation status and distribution of 253 species of endemic freshwater fishes in the Mediterranean basin have been assessed by expert ichthyologists in the Mediterranean region and staff from the IUCN Freshwater Biodiversity Assessment Programme and the IUCN Red List Programme.

The assessment reveals that seven species have become Extinct and one is Extinct in the Wild. Moreover, 56% of the evaluated fishes are threatened, of which 18% are Critically Endangered, 18% Endangered and 20% Vulnerable.

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Summary of conservation status for endemic freshwater fish of the Mediterranean, 2008

Photo: IUCN

Species Richness

A number of sites have been identified as regionally important for endemism or as centres of threatened species for freshwater fishes.

The greatest concentration of threatened endemic Mediterranean freshwater fishes is in the Lower Guadiana River in southern Spain and Portugal, which includes 11 species of endemic fish. Other sites that have been identified as regionally important for endemism and threatened endemic species are the Po river basin in northern Italy, the lower Orontes in southwest Turkey, and Lake Kinneret in Israel.

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Species richness of threatened endemic freshwater fish in the Mediterranean

Photo: IUCN

Threats and Conservation Action

Water pollution and extraction are the most relevant causes of threat, however the assessment did highlight other major threats, such as the restricted range of populations (often only present in a single river system) and the limited dispersal of species, as well as invasive species and the construction of dams.

Main conservation measures include the integrated management of rivers, so as to improve the quantity and quality of water because of the pollution; as well as targeted actions, such as education initiatives, to raise people's awareness regarding the natural values of rivers and wetlands.

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Economidichthys pygmaeus (Greece) Least Concern

Photo: Rousopoulos Ioannis