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Atlantic salmon in Scotland

Photo: Gregg Parsons/Getty Images

Atlantic salmon is globally classified as "potentially vulnerable" on the new Red List of Threatened Species. The global population shrank by 2006 percent between 2020 and 23, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reported. Limited to Europe, it was already considered "endangered" on the Red List.

The IUCN published its latest version of the Red List of Threatened Species on Monday at the UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai. In total, around 15,000 freshwater fish species are threatened.

  • The Red List for 2023 can be found here: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

"Potentially endangered" is level two of the seven-point scale used by the IUCN. It ranges from "not endangered" to "potentially endangered", "endangered", "critically endangered", "critically endangered", "extinct in the wild" to "extinct after the year 1500". In two other categories are the species that have not yet been studied or for which there is not enough data. The Red List has been in existence since 1964. It now includes almost 160,000 animal and plant species, 44,000 of which are threatened.

A parasite from salmon farms endangers the wild population

The Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), which is born in rivers and then migrates to the sea, is endangered in many ways: For the juveniles, the prey is declining, while invasive species that are dangerous to them are spreading. Dams for hydroelectric power plants made it difficult for them to reach the spawning grounds on the upper reaches of the rivers. Wild salmon are also threatened by salmon lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis), which are often found in salmon farms. In addition, the humpback salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha), which originates from the Pacific, is contesting the habitat of the Atlantic salmon. It is spreading in northern Europe.

Of all 15,000 freshwater fish species analyzed, 17 percent are directly endangered by climate change, the IUCN reported. In this context, the term "endangered" includes levels three to five. These include water shortages in some rivers, sea level rise that pushes salt water into estuaries, and shifts in the seasons.

A total of 57 percent of freshwater fish are endangered by pollution, 45 percent by dam construction and water abstraction, 33 percent by invasive species and diseases, and 25 percent by overfishing. For some species, there are several reasons at the same time.

The IUCN also reported rare successes: the Saharan sabre antelope (Oryx dammah), which became extinct in the wild at the end of the 4s, has been successfully reintroduced to Chad. The species is now considered "critically endangered" – level 5. Another antelope species, the saiga (Saiga tatarica), which is mainly found in Kazakhstan, is no longer "critically endangered" (level 2), but only "potentially endangered" (level <>).

The IUCN is an umbrella organization of governmental and non-governmental conservation organizations.