Saving critically endangered fish species – utopia or a practical idea? The story of the Yarqon bleak – Acanthobrama telavivensis (Cyprinidae) as a test case

Menachem Goren

aqua, International Journal of Ichthyology, pp. 1-12, Volume 15, Issue 1 – 15 January 2009


Sixteen percent of the Israeli native freshwater fishes have become extinct and 19% are critically endangered. The situation in other arid and semi-arid countries is similar. Are all the endangered species doomed to become extinct? The case of the restoration of the wild populations of the Yarqon bleak clearly shows that there is an alternative. The Yarqon bleak, a cyprinid fish endemic to the Mediterranean rivers in Israel, almost became extinct following the drought of 1998-1999. Several days prior to the drying of the streams, ca. 150 fish from two basins were brought to the Ichthyological Laboratory at Tel Aviv University. They were carefully treated and housed in a breeding centre. Within five years, we had managed to produce more than 14,000 fish. First attempts to reintroduce the fish to the Yarqon River, made in 2002 and 2003, failed, in that the adults did not breed. Following an experiment which showed that the fish need suitable spawning sites and shelter sites for juveniles, several aquatic sites were engineered according to knowledge acquired during the research and were stocked with laboratory-born fish in 2006. During 2007and 2008, juvenile Yarqon bleak of various sizes were found in eight out of 11 monitored sites. The success to save the Yarqon bleak shows that endangered fish species can be rescued. This requires action to be taken along two fronts: 1) raising public awareness and 2) a professional approach that includes relevant research and implementation of the results.

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Volume 15, Issue 1, 15 January 2009

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