Date of Award

Fall 12-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences



Committee Director

Kent Carpenter

Committee Member

Holly Gaff

Committee Member

Beth Polidoro


Understanding threats and drivers of extinction risk is critical to conserving marine biodiversity. Although marine bony fishes are some of the most diverse and abundant vertebrates in the world, overexploitation is the major threat to these taxa. Species in the family Sciaenidae are important marine resources in many parts of the world, supporting small- and large-scale fisheries for consumption and the international maw (dried swimbladder) trade. Sciaenids exhibit a diverse array of life history characteristics, such as high fecundity, large body size, formation of spawning aggregations, and longevity. Some characteristics increase their susceptibility to anthropogenic stressors. Despite being ecologically and economically important, data regarding species’ population status and ecology are limited. In this study, I evaluated extinction risk for the 286 valid sciaenid species using the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List methodology and explored impacts of the maw trade. About 10% of sciaenids overall are of elevated concern (EC). The majority were assessed as Least Concern, but data were insufficient to assign an appropriate Red List category for over 25% of species. Compared to non-maw trade species, those used in the trade have a larger proportion of EC species. Overexploitation was the major threat overall, impacting over 150 species. These results highlight the urgent need for additional research into the maw trade, specifically composition of species, status of Data Deficient species, and price data for maw products. This study completes the first comprehensive analysis of the conservation status of Sciaenidae and provides a foundation for future research initiatives.