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Top 10 Most Endangered Fish That You Should Know About

beluga sturgeon endangered fish

Fish are one of the most crucial members of marine life. Previously, oceans were seen as infinite goldmines of distinctive and unique types of fish. But today numerous fish species are at risk of extinction. Here’s a list on the ten most endangered fish that you should know about.

most endangered fish in the world

Unfortunately, the world has already seen the extinction of many unique and wondrous animals, including marine life. If we don’t change our unsustainable use of the ocean and its inhabitants, we will eventually have to witness their demise.

It’s not always necessarily human activities that threaten or are the cause of the extinction of an animal. Still, precautions by humans may delay the extinction if not prevent it. The most prominent factors contributing to the extinction of fish are habitat loss, pollution, and invasive species. However, the primary threat is overfishing. 


The International Union for Conservation of Nature has investigated all species of fish to identify the endangered ones. They have issued a list of around 1,616 species of fish that are risking extinction. This article will explore the top 10 most endangered fish people should know to prevent their overfishing. 

#1 Atlantic Halibut

The Atlantic Halibut, scientifically known as Hippoglossus Hippoglossus, is generally a flatfish. It belongs to the family of Pleuronectidae. Reportedly, it is the world’s largest flatfish that can reach a length of 4.7m and a body mass of 320 kg. 

However, the world will soon be deprived of this largest flatfish as it is one of the most critically endangered fish species. Its native habitat is mainly the gentle and arctic waters of the Northern Atlantic. Also, the Atlantic Halibut usually likes to live at the bottom of the ocean at depths between 50 m and 2,000 m. Nonetheless, it may come closer to the surface, but only happens occasionally. 

Its average lifespan range up to 50 years. Notably, the Atlantic Halibut is a slow-growing fish that takes around 10 to 14 years to achieve sexual maturity. Because of its slow growth it is comparatively more susceptible to overfishing as hooks and lines can easily catch it. 

As a result, its population has dramatically declined as many Atlantic Halibuts are overfished without ever reaching the age of reproduction. It has badly affected their reproduction rate. Seeing its overfishing and slow growth, the IUCN has already classified these fish species as endangered.

#2 Bluefin Tuna

bluefin tuna most endangered fish

The Bluefin Tuna belongs to the family of Scombridae. It’s a type of tuna fish, scientifically known as Thunnus Thynnus.

Notably, bluefin tuna species received their name due to its native habitat. For example: Southern bluefin tuna, North bluefin tuna, and Atlantic bluefin tuna inhabit the Southern hemisphere waters, Northern hemisphere waters and the Atlantic ocean respectively. Atlantic Bluefin Tuna is the most common type of tuna, whose weight ranges from 150 to 680 kg. 

The lifespan of bluefin tunas ranges up to 40 years, during which they keep migrating depending on the climatic change. Moreover, a particular trait of bluefin tunas is that they can dive up to 900 metres (3000 feet) at a remarkable speed. Additionally, they are amazing predators from the moment that they are hatched. Due to their size, speed, and power they have grabbed the attention of the world. 

Besides, bluefin tunas have been globally prized as the perfect fish to eat. Medium-sized and large bluefin tuna are the primary component of the Japanese raw-fish market, which is used for sushi and sashimi. But unfortunately, their great traits – speed, power, taste, and size – become the fundamental reason for attracting many people. Consequently, this led to a substantial decrease in their population. 

As per the International Commission for the Conservation of Bluefin Tunas, the bluefin tuna population has dramatically declined over the last 40 years, according to a report from 2009. However, in 2021, European officials put pressure to ban the commercial fishing of bluefin tunas all around the globe. 

However, the species still falls under the Endangered Species Act. In 2021, IUCN added them to the Red List of Threatened Species category. 

#3 Beluga Sturgeon

beluga sturgeon endangered fish

Beluga sturgeon, also called excellent Sturgeon, is another unique species of fish enlisted as on of the most critically endangered fish.

This species is a type of anadromous fish in the sturgeon family belonging to the Acipenseriformes order. Belugas are mainly found in the Caspian and the Black Sea basins. Previously they also inhabited the Adriatic Sea. Moreover, the beluga sturgeons are a fish of massive size. They are the third largest living species of bony fish. 

A full-grown-up Beluga fish can approximately reach 7m in length and weigh 1500 kg. 

Precisely, this particular type of fish possesses a tremendous commercial value. The species is primarily used for its valuable roe, known as beluga caviar. Beluga caviar is the primary reason for the overfishing of beluga sturgeons. The world’s best and most desirable caviars come from the Beluga Sturgeon. Similarly, its white meat – especially its filets – are also in high demand. 

Subsequently, their high demand in the food industry led to the overfishing of Beluga Sturgeons. Viewing their overfishing, the IUCN has classified them as critically endangered. The constant drop in their population is due to excessive fishing for commercial purposes. In addition, beluga sturgeons also suffer habitat loss due to fishing pressures. 

A survey says that 573 tons of beluga were caught in 1992. In contrast, merely 36 tons were collected in 2007. Both stats assert the 93% decline in their population, which is quite alarming. In a nutshell, the government has enlisted Beluga Sturgeons as a critically endangered fish, and the population is still expected to witness a further decline.

#4 Orange Roughy

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The Orange Roughy, scientifically known as Hoplostethus Atlanticus, is also called red roughy. Belonging to the slimehead family Trachichthyidae, they are also known as the slimheads, who tend to live up to 200 years. Their extended lifespan is noteworthy for commercial deep-trawl fisheries. 

Sadly, their population vastly decreased due to massive overfishing in the 80s and 90s. Eventually, the federal government listed Orange Roughly in the category of 10 most endangered fish under the EPBC Act.

In fact, according to a survey by the UK Marine Conservation Society, this particular type of fish is regarded as “vulnerable to exploitation“. This type of fish is comparatively slow-growing and takes time to grow sexually mature. The slow-growing life cycle results in their low resilience, making them highly susceptible to overfishing.

Considering their overfishing and slow mutation process, the federal government has declared their fishing illegal and added them to the red list of endangered species. 

#5 Winter Skate

winter skate endangered fish

The following endangered fish is a diamond-shaped fish with the name Winter Skate. Their scientific name is Leucoraja Ocellata, belonging to the cartilaginous fish category. This particular fish category has particularly distinctive features: wing-like pectoral fins and a flat body. 

Winter Skates have a stingray yet a thicker tail. The tail does not possess any stinging barbs. It’s a unique fish with a distinctive body structure and appearance. They spend most of their time at the very bottom of the ocean. 

Their typical habitat is the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, mainly from the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada to North Carolina in the United States. Its meat gets used for various commercial purposes – it commonly serves as fishmeal or as lobster bait to hook trophy fish. Additionally, their steaks are also used for human consumption. 

Experts blame all these factors for the 90% reduction in the Skate population since the 1970s. Bearing this devastating decline in mind, the IUCN has enlisted Winter Stakes as endangered species on the IUCN Red List

Further, it is especially the population of matured or adult winter skates that is notably declining. Meaning that they fall victim to commercial fishing before they reach the age of reproduction, thereby severely affecting the species’ reproduction rate as well.

#6 Nassau Grouper

The Nassau grouper, also named Epinephelus Striatus, is one of many perciform fish belonging to the family Serranidae. The Nassau grouper is widely famous for commercial and recreational fishing leading to its overfishing. Resultantly, there is a devastating decline in its population globally.  

IUCN has strictly prohibited fishing of the Nassau Grouper, especially in US federal waters, considering it a highly endangered species. IUCN estimates that we have seen a 60% decline in the Nassau Grouper population over the last three generations.

#7 Red Handfish

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Red handfish is another unique species that has been categorized as critically endangered according to the Australian Conservation Status (EPBC Act). 

Their scientific name is Thymichthys Politus, belonging to the order Lophiiformes of the family Brachionichthyidae. The fish has a distinctive body that is small in size with flattened wart-like protuberances. Also, it has two color morphs covering its body and fins. The fins are slightly pink, separated by a faint white line. 

Generally, red handfish are 80.1 mm in total length. Previously, the habitat of this fish pertained to Eastern Tasmania. However, their constant reduction in the population has limited their habitat to Frederick Henry Bay in Australia. Following this devastating reduction, the Australian government has added them to the red list of endangered animals under the EPBC act. 

Also, IUCN has classified them as critically endangered fish species whit only a few species left. According to the IUCN report, loss of spawning substrate, degradation, water pollution and siltation, habitat loss, and increasing densities of native sea urchins, are all key factors contributing to their endangerment. 

#8 European Eel

European eel endangered fish

The European eel, known as Anguilla Anguilla, is a snake-like catadromous fish. The species belongs to the family Anguillidae from the order Anguilliformes. Yet another type of fish identified as critically endangered due to its population decline. 

Adult eels have long, narrow bodies and continuous dorsal. Moreover, they have a tail-fin and slimy skin. As they age, the color of their skin changes. Generally, they are brown, black, or olive-green with yellow bellies. However, some adults become discolored and turn silvery in color, usually called ’silver eels’.

The preferred habitat of European Eels include the rivers of the North Atlantic, Baltic and Mediterranean Seas. They are also present across the European coasts from the Black Sea to the White Sea in Russia. However, their population is constantly decreasing due to facing multiple threats. 

Coastal pollution, parasite infection, overfishing, habitat degradation, and climate change are noteworthy threats. Recent work suggests that polychlorinated biphenyl pollution is a decisive factor causing their depletion. Their life development cycle can also often become another survival challenge. 

Eels undergo a fascinating development cycle. First their egg hatches in the sea, then they develop into larvae which the ocean’s currents carry back to fresh water. They continue to live in the freshwater streams till they grow in size, and then reach the ocean to spawn only once they reach sexual maturity. But if they don’t return and reproduce in saltwater, they won’t survive and eventually die.

#9 Chinese Sturgeon

Chinese sturgeon endangered fish

Chinese Sturgeon is another critically endangered fish species that belongs to the family Acipenseridae from the class order Acipenseriformes

This fish has particular historical significance. It has been deemed China’s national treasure. The native habitat of the Chinese Sturgeon includes China, Japan, and the Korean Peninsula. Unfortunately, it has already been stamped out from most regions. The leading reasons for its depletion are habitat loss and overfishing. 

Notably, the Chinese government put maximum effort into preserving their national treasure by repopulating the Yangtze with 9 million Chinese Sturgeon to enhance their reproduction. Still, it didn’t show a positive result. 

Therefore, the IUCN has purportedly included Chinese Sturgeon on the list of endangered animals. 

 #10 Maltese Ray / Skate

The Maltese Ray is scientifically known as Leucoraja melitensis. This type of fish belongs to the family of Rajidae. The Maltese Rays’ population is drastically decreased due to their habitat loss – leading their breed to the brink of extinction. 

Typically the Maltese rays lives in open seas in Algeria, Malta, Italy, and Tunisia. Their body is of distinctive shape and structure, which makes them intriguing fish and marine animals. Specifically, rays possess a flat body covered in a brown coat on their upper body, while their underbelly is white. 

Please note that there are no potential threats to their survival except for habitat loss. However, habitat loss has proved enough to make them a critically endangered species.

The Final Take 

The article outlines the 10 most endangered fish. The species are not completely extinct, but their populations have reached a critical level. Consequently, the IUCN has declared them the most endangered fish species in an attempt to protect them.

overfishing endangered fish

Each species has a different level of endangerment, meaning some are critically endangered, whereas others are doing comparatively better in their individual range.  

It is also important to mention that these species are not yet wholly extinct worldwide. But – they may disappear entirely from some particular regions of the world. Fishing the species mentioned above will cause great damage to the ocean’s already fragile eco-systems. 

Thank you for reading up on the most endangered fish of the world! If you want more fishy information that is a bit more cheerful, head over to read about the Top Ten Cutest Fish in the World

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