WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The 'Global Freshwater Fish BioBlitz' kicks off on World Wetlands Day to engage nature lovers in freshwater fish conservation. The Freshwater Fish Specialist Group (FFSG), of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Wetlands International, has joined forces with other international groups, namely World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, FishBase, the Fisheries Society of the British Isles and the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, to introduce this new global initiative. The BioBlitz project, designed by iNaturalist.org, will be hosted on the FFSG website www.iucnffsg.org/bioblitz.
People from around the world, whether they are anglers, photographers, students or nature lovers, are invited to upload photographs of freshwater fishes observed in their natural habitat, with details of where and when they saw the fish. Volunteers with expertise in fish taxonomy will serve as curators to identify and verify the species to ensure the data is research-grade. The information has the potential to assist scientists to describe new species, help assess the risk of extinction for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, can track the spread of invasive species and can be exported to freely accessible online data archives, such as Encyclopedia of Life.
The launch of the project also highlights the importance of freshwater fish for the protection of internationally important habitats. "More than three-quarters of Ramsar's Wetlands of International Importance, or Ramsar Sites, are entirely or partly freshwater sites, and, of those, over 30 percent became Ramsar Sites because of their important fish species" said Christopher Briggs, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. "The more data we have on the species present in our wetlands, the better we can manage them. The Freshwater Fish BioBlitz will provide a wealth of essential information for managing our wetlands and their fish species."
Projects like this are needed as Will Turner, Senior Vice President for the Moore Center for Science and Oceans at Conservation International, explains "Freshwater fishes may be the most endangered group of vertebrates, with a third of all species threatened with extinction due to overfishing, pollution, habitat loss and fragmentation, alien invasive species and climate change."
"The BioBlitz is our way of bringing the power of crowdsourcing to freshwater fish conservation," said Michele Thieme, senior freshwater conservation scientist at World Wildlife Fund. "Wildlife monitoring is vital to conservation, since we can't protect species unless we know where they live and what threats they might be facing. Engaging the public all over the world will help us identify more species in more places than we possibly could alone."
"It is a huge task – with over 15,000 freshwater fish species, and numbers continually growing," said Dr Richard Sneider, Global Chair for the FFSG. "More than 300 new fish species are described every year on average, so the more people 'on the ground' carrying out observations and recording what they have seen, the better."
The Global Freshwater Fish Bioblitz is inspired by another Bioblitz for amphibians, which the Amphibian Specialist Group began more than two years ago. "We're hoping to mimic the success of the Global Amphibian BioBlitz, which has been embraced by citizen-scientists throughout the world," said Sneider. "In only two years they've recorded more than 1,500 taxa and even discovered a new species. I'd say that's a pretty good start."
Notes to the Editors
Images are available in the Global Freshwater Fish BioBlitz Dropbox for publicity. Please ensure all images are fully credited https://www.dropbox.com/sh/rsjwx1rk4dhnn3y/puctTO2jnY
Freshwater Fish Specialist Group is a global network of freshwater fish experts with a shared mission of achieving conservation and sustainable use of freshwater fishes and their habitats (www.iucnffsg.org)
International Union for Conservation of Nature helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges (http://www.iucn.org/)
Wetlands International is dedicated to maintaining and restoring wetlands— for their environmental values as well as for the services they provide to people (http://www.wetlands.org/Default.aspx)
World Wildlife Fund's mission is to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth and works to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature(http://worldwildlife.org/)
Conservation International's mission is building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, for the well-being of humanity. (http://www.conservation.org/Pages/default.aspx)
FishBase is a free global and public resource on all fish species of the world (http://www.fishbase.org/)
The Fisheries Society of the British Isles is an international learned society that promotes the interests of fish biology and fisheries management (http://www.fsbi.org.uk/)
The Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network is a collaboration of governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations working to organize and improve biodiversity observations globally and make their data more readily accessible to policymakers, managers, experts and other users. (http://www.earthobservations.org/geobon.shtml)
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is the intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. (www.ramsar.org)
Suzanne Turnock, Programme Officer, IUCN SSC/WI Freshwater Fish Specialist Group
Tel: + 44 (0) 1244 389758 • E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org • Website: www.iucnffsg.org • Postal address: IUCN SSC/WI Freshwater Fish Specialist Group, c/o Chester Zoo, Caughall Road, Upton-by-Chester, Chester, CH2 1LH, UK
A photo accompanying this release is available at: http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=23345
Source:World Wildlife Fund