There is an urgent need to prioritise conservation action for ASAP species, in particular because many ASAP species are not the focus of any conservation attention.
ASAP creates environment which catalyses conservation of ASAP species leading to greater and more effective conservation outcomes, by supporting and promoting information exchange, collating and tracking information on ASAP species and calling for the conservation status of species in the region to be kept up to date.
With over 80 Critically Endangered species, freshwater fishes are currently the largest group of ASAP species. The fishes range from the some of the smallest in the world including liquorice gouramis (genus Parosphromenus), to some of the largest, such as the Mekong giant catfish Pangasianodon gigas. The threats to these fishes are varied and include impacts from agriculture (including land habitat loss and pollution), aquatic habitat loss, invasive species, overharvesting and water flow changes.
Fishes are also the most often neglected of the ASAP species with presently very little targeted conservation action underway. Aquatic species in general are overlooked globally amongst conservation actions and many of these species need urgent attention. In 2019 Shoal was launched to escalate and accelerate action for threatened freshwater species and eliminate this gap in the global effort.
Undertaking the required amount of action individually for each of the ASAP fish species would be likely to be inefficient, if even possible. An action plan is required (following the IUCN One Plan Approach integrating both in situ and ex situ conservation needs) firstly to ascertain and set priorities, secondly to identify the most efficient methods for securing these fish populations, and finally to identify appropriate implementation methods.
The project will be housed in Mandai Nature, who has seconded one of its staff to the project and is hosting ASAP. Mandai Nature was recently established to further advance efforts in nature conservation and climate change mitigation in Asia by the parent entity of Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) and Temasek. Mandai Nature will strengthen WRS’s leadership in the conservation of Southeast Asian threatened species and build on the numerous prioritisation and planning processes undertaken for other species groups.
Nerissa Chao, of ASAP Director, Mike Baltzer from Shoal and Nathaniel Ng from Mandai Nature, spoke to Veronika Perková on the Nature Solutionaries podcast, "Why freshwater fish need as much or more attention than rhinos". In the interview, they talk about the importance of freshwater fish, issues and challenges surrounding their conservation, and how governments, hobbyists and communities living near freshwater habitats can help to save these species from the brink of extinction.