Abstract

Europe has a long tradition of exploiting marine fishes and is promoting marine economic activity through its Blue Growth strategy. This increase in anthropogenic pressure, along with climate change, threatens the biodiversity of fishes and food security. Here, we examine the conservation status of 1,020 species of European marine fishes and identify factors that contribute to their extinction risk. Large fish species (greater than 1.5 m total length) are most at risk; half of these are threatened with extinction, predominantly sharks, rays and sturgeons. This analysis was based on the latest International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) European regional Red List of marine fishes, which was coherent with assessments of the status of fish stocks carried out independently by fisheries management agencies: no species classified by IUCN as threatened were considered sustainable by these agencies. A remarkable geographic divergence in stock status was also evident: in northern Europe, most stocks were not overfished, whereas in the Mediterranean Sea, almost all stocks were overfished. As Europe proceeds with its sustainable Blue Growth agenda, two main issues stand out as needing priority actions in relation to its marine fishes: the conservation of marine fish megafauna and the sustainability of Mediterranean fish stocks.

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Acknowledgements

P.G.F. and R.C. received funding from the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS) pooling initiative, funded by the Scottish Funding Council (grant reference HR09011) and contributing institutions. The European Red List of marine fishes was a project funded by the European Commission (Directorate General for the Environment under service contract number 070307/2011/607526/SER/B.3).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 2TZ, UK.

    • Paul G. Fernandes
  2. IUCN Marine Biodiversity Unit, Department of Biological Sciences, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia 23529-0266, USA.

    • Gina M. Ralph
    • , Mia T. Comeros-Raynal
    • , Michael S. Harvey
    •  & Kent E. Carpenter
  3. Global Species & Key Biodiversity Areas Programme IUCN, Rue Mauverney 28, 1196 Gland, Switzerland.

    • Ana Nieto
    • , Mariana García Criado
    • , David J. Allen
    •  & Caroline Pollock
  4. Institute of Marine Biological Resources and Inland Waters, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), 46.7 km Athens-Sounio Avenue, 19013 Anavyssos, Greece.

    • Paraskevas Vasilakopoulos
    •  & Christos D. Maravelias
  5. European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Directorate D - Sustainable Resources, Unit D.02 Water and Marine Resources, Via Enrico Fermi 2749, 21027 Ispra (VA), Italy.

    • Paraskevas Vasilakopoulos
  6. Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Strathclyde, 26 Richmond Street, Glasgow G1 1XH, UK.

    • Robin M. Cook
  7. IUCN Shark Specialist Group and Earth to Ocean Research Group, Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, 8888, University Drive, Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6, Canada.

    • Riley A. Pollom
    • , Julia M. Lawson
    • , Rachel H. L. Walls
    •  & Nicholas K. Dulvy
  8. Natural History Museum Rijeka, Lorenzov prolaz 1, HR-51000 Rijeka, Croatia.

    • Marcelo Kovačić
  9. Department of Ichthyology, Australian Museum, 1 William Street, Sydney, New South Wales 2010, Australia.

    • David Pollard
  10. School of Biology & Environmental Science, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.

    • Edward D. Farrell
  11. Department of Aquatic Resources, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Skolgatan 6, 742 42 Öregrund, Sweden.

    • Ann-Britt Florin
  12. School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Arizona State University, Glendale, Arizona 85306, USA.

    • Beth A. Polidoro
  13. Institut Français de Recherche pour l’Exploitation de la Mer (Ifremer), BP 21105, 44311 Nantes cedex 3, France.

    • Pascal Lorance
  14. Institute of Marine Research, Nordnesgaten 33, PO Box 1870 Nordnes, N-5817 Bergen, Norway.

    • Franz Uiblein
    •  & Kjell Nedreaas
  15. National Marine Fisheries Service, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, 8901 La Jolla Shores Drive, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.

    • Matthew Craig
  16. The Shark Trust, 15 Bakers Place Plymouth PL1 4LX, UK.

    • Sarah L. Fowler
  17. American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency, Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799, USA.

    • Mia T. Comeros-Raynal
  18. Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax NS B3H 4R2, Canada.

    • Manuel Dureuil
  19. Museu de História Natural do Funchal, Rua da Mouraria, 31 9004-546 Funchal, Madeira, Portugal.

    • Manuel Biscoito
  20. Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (Cefas), Lowestoft NR33 0HT, UK.

    • Sophy R. McCully Phillips
    •  & Jim R. Ellis
  21. 17 Kolokotroni str., 15236, Penteli Greece.

    • Constantinos Papaconstantinou
  22. Department of Marine Studies, University of Split, Livanjska 5, 21000 Split, Croatia.

    • Alen Soldo
  23. Faculty of Fisheries, University of Istanbul, Ordu St. No: 200, 34134 Fatih, Istanbul, Turkey.

    • Çetin Keskin
  24. Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, 2100-DK Copenhagen Ø, Denmark.

    • Steen Wilhelm Knudsen
  25. Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Centro Costero de Málaga, 29640 Fuengirola, Spain.

    • Luís Gil de Sola
  26. Institute for the Coastal Marine Environment of the Italian National Research Council (CNR–IAMC), 91026 Mazara Del Vallo, Italy.

    • Fabrizio Serena
  27. National Marine Fisheries Service Systematics Laboratory, National Museum of Natural History, Washington DC 20560, USA.

    • Bruce B. Collette
  28. Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, The University of British Columbia, 2202 Main Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada.

    • Emilie Stump
  29. Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Northern Territory 0810, Australia.

    • Barry C. Russell
  30. Oceana Europe, Gran Via 59, 28013 Madrid, Spain.

    • Silvia Garcia
    •  & Helena Alvarez
  31. Institute of Marine Research/Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre. University of the Azores, 9901-862 Horta, Portugal.

    • Pedro Afonso
  32. Des Requins et Des Hommes (DRDH), BLP/Brest-Iroise, 15 rue Dumont d’Urville, Plouzané 29860, France.

    • Armelle B. J. Jung
  33. Secretaria Regional do Ambiente e Recursos Naturais, Rua Dr. Pestana Júnior, n° 6 - 5° Andar 9064-506 Funchal, Madeira, Portugal.

    • João Delgado

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Contributions

P.G.F. drafted the text, conducted the RF analysis, and produced all the figures and Supplementary Tables 2, 3 and 4. P.G.F., K.E.C., G.M.R., A.N. and M.G.C. were responsible for determining content and discussion of analyses. A.N. coordinated the European Red List of marine fishes project and K.E.C. manages IUCN’s Marine Biodiversity Unit. Red List workshops and assessment reviews were organized and coordinated by K.E.C., N.K.D., J.M.L., R.A.P., G.M.R. and R.W. G.M.R. compiled the variables used in the RF analysis, and drafted components of the main text and methods. A.N. and M.G.C. drafted components of the main text and methods, and together with G.M.R. composed Supplementary Table 1. P.V., C.D.M., R.M.C., N.K.D., R.A.P., M.K., D.P., E.D.F., A.B.F., B.A.P., J.M.L., P.L. and F.U. edited drafts. All authors (except C.D.M. and P.V.) participated in Red List workshops and/or contributed to the IUCN assessments. P.V. and C.D.M. collated the Mediterranean stock assessment data.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Paul G. Fernandes.

Supplementary information

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    Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Figure 1 and supplementary Tables 1–4