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Freshwater fish focus of workshop

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An international team of 19 scientists and researchers are attending a four-day workshop this week at the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden to discuss the status of 630 species of freshwater fish native to Mexico, some of which are also found in New Mexico.

The workshops, which run through today, are the first to be held at the BioPark since the facility last summer became the first hub in the United States for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

That joint association puts the ABQ BioPark at the leading edge of conservation research worldwide, Kira Mileham, the IUCN’s director of strategic partnerships, said when she visited the BioPark last August.

The IUCN is the organization that compiles the Red List, which is the growing database that assesses the extinction threat faced by plants, animals and fungi around the world. Two IUCN Red List assessors are based out of the BioPark.

The IUCN relies on a network of 15,000 nature experts and researchers worldwide working through a global hub of assessors who compile and analyze data.

Researchers from Mexico, England, Spain and the United States, all of whom are experts in various fields related to freshwater fish in Mexico, are among those attending the workshop, said Barry Bitzer, development director for the New Mexico BioPark Society, the nonprofit support organization for the BioPark.

The researchers are expected to come to some kind of consensus regarding the status of the freshwater fish and where they should rank on the Red List, pending a peer review process that is often lengthy, Bitzer said.

Mileham noted last August that “We desperately need help with freshwater fish, and we know that freshwater ecosystems are crashing faster than any other ecosystem on earth – faster than we know what species are in them.”

The ABQ BioPark consists of the BioPark Zoo, the Botanic Garden, the Aquarium and Tingley Beach.