Date of Award

Fall 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences


Ecological Sciences

Committee Director

Kent E. Carpenter

Committee Member

Sara Maxwell

Committee Member

Thomas Munroe


Conserving biodiversity is one of the greatest ethical responsibilities and challenges humans face. Understanding the conservation status of taxonomic groups provides a systematic way to prioritize efforts to combat biodiversity loss. The 405 species within the order Clupeiformes are the herrings, shads, sardines, anchovies, menhadens and relatives that include many of the most important marine forage fishes. These small, schooling fishes are economically, ecologically and culturally significant globally. Despite their contribution to global fisheries and our increasing reliance on these fishes for food and industrial commodities, they are generally poorly known with limited information regarding basic biology and population trends. I applied IUCN Red List methodology, a comprehensive and systematic approach to assessing extinction risk of species, to all clupeiform species. I then used these assessments to synthesize and address their global conservation status and to highlight the potential for improvements to conservation and fisheries management. The best estimate of nearly 11% of species are of elevated conservation concern, although this could be as high as 34% if Data Deficient species are all threatened. The Caribbean and the Indo-Malay-Philippine Archipelago both have high concentrations of either threatened or Data Deficient species and are areas of particular conservation concern. Major threats include exploitation, pollution and habitat modification for human use although the intensity of a specific threat differs between freshwater, estuarine and marine environments. Life history and ecological traits of threatened and Near Threatened species were characterized between primary habitat systems. Immediate conservation priorities include: 1) the evaluation of current fisheries management strategies, with a strong recommendation toward ecosystem-based management protocols that incorporate group-specific life history traits, and 2) local, intensive habitat restoration to reduce pollution and remove dams. These extinction risk assessments and subsequent analyses should be used to monitor conservation progress and as an informative tool for fisheries and conservation managers.


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