for National Geographic News
More than a third of Europe's freshwater fish species are at risk of extinction, according to new data released this week by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
Of Europe's 522 freshwater fish, 200 species are at serious risk of vanishing from the planet—and 12 are already extinct.
This means that the fish face a much higher extinction risk than Europe's birds or mammals, according to the Swiss-based nonprofit.
Urgent action is needed "to avoid a tragedy," IUCN species program officer William Darwall said in a statement.
But the conservation task is made harder because many of the threatened species are not considered charismatic and seem to lack "any apparent value to people," Darwall said.
"They risk disappearing with only a dedicated few noticing the loss."
The study findings appear in the newly published Handbook of European Freshwater Fishes, a seven-year assessment related to the creation of IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species.
On the Brink
According to the report, freshwater species of concern include the critically endangered European eel (Anguilla anguilla).
The number of these eels reaching rivers from their breeding waters in the Atlantic Ocean has plummeted between 95 and 99 percent since 1980, IUCN said.
(Related news: "Europe's Eels Are Slipping Away, Scientists Warn" [October 9, 2003].)
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