About 50 species of elasmobranchs and 460 species of bony fishes are currently known from the Arabian Gulf. They are key components of the region’s marine biodiversity, contributing to ecosystem functions and services, such as food security. Addressing natural and human-induced threats and the absence of adequate species-specific information, bony fishes were recently assessed against the criteria of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, which assigns species to extinction risk categories, based on objectively verifiable criteria. Two Red List Assessment workshops were held by the IUCN Global Marine Species Assessment team, Qatar University, and Qatar Museums, funded by the Qatar National Research Fund. Regional and international experts on fish taxonomy, fisheries, and Arabian Gulf environmental issues participated. Preliminary results indicate that 7% of the fish species, including several of high commercial importance, were at an elevated risk of extinction (5% Vulnerable and 2% Endangered); another 2% were designated as Near Threatened. Most species (71%) were listed as Least Concern. For 20% of all species adequate information was unavailable and they were listed as Data Deficient. Naturally stressful environmental conditions such as high salinities and temperature extremes prevail in the semi-enclosed, shallow Gulf. In addition, degradation resulting from urban and industrial developments, pollution, and unsustainable fisheries is increasing rapidly, aggravated by climate change. The findings of the regional Red List Assessment are attributed to these multiple stressors. While in general, overfishing is the dominant threat, coral-associated species are mainly impacted by habitat loss. Fish assemblages recovered from major oil spills within a few years, but climate change resulted in permanent shifts in species compositions. The high percentage of Data Deficient species underlines the need for more research. Improved scientific knowledge will be the basis for region-specific conservation measures. Most international scientists participating in the assessments have a museum background, underlining the importance of Natural History Museums in research and conservation. There is an urgent need to establish regional research collections, which will provide Qatar with prime sources of objectively verifiable, species-specific information for management and conservation purposes.


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  • Received: 07 December 2015
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