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About the Goby Group of the Marine Fish Red List Authority

The Species Survival Commission (SSC) is the largest of the six volunteer Commissions of the IUCN, The World Conservation Union, a global membership organization that brings together governments and conservation organizations. SSC's vision is "A world that values and conserves present levels of biodiversity."

Red List Authorities have been established for all major taxonomic groups included on the IUCN Red List. In most cases, the Red List Authority (RLA) is the SSC Specialist Group responsible for the species, group of species or specific geographic area. The Goby Group sits within the Marine Fish Red List Authority and presently has 22 members from 13 countries. There is a steering committee of five people, with two of us as co-chairs.

The Goby Group was established in 2013, with “goby” taken to mean all fishes within the perciform suborder Gobioidei (the families Gobiidae, Eleotridae, Odontobutidae, Rhyacichthyidae, Microdesmidae, Kraemeriidae and Schindleriidae; there is ongoing discussion on family assignments). Gobioid fishes are one of the most diverse fish groups in the world (forming about 10% of all bony fishes) but the distribution, taxonomy and conservation status of many species is not known with any certainty. The Goby Group works with the GMSA (Global Marine Species Assessment), the Freshwater Fish Specialist Group and other relevant groups to help ensure rigorous scientific input into the assessment processes, and to spearhead the review process.

Gobioid fishes are unique among vertebrates in their rapid diversification and adaptation, specializing in niche and microhabitat exploitation. They form a significant component in coral reef and tropical/subtropical coastal communities. Indeed, gobies have recently been demonstrated to account for over 50% of energy flow within coral reef systems (in part due to their short life spans and rapid generational turnover), so are a key part of any coral reef ecosystem. Many gobioids are estuarine specialists, and some (such as mudskippers) are inextricably linked to mangrove forests, which are threatened globally by coastal development. In freshwater, particularly on islands, gobioids have diversified and specialized, with high levels of endemism, leaving species highly vulnerable to threats to the waterways they inhabit. Some gobioids are highly sought after as food fishes in their post-larval stage (when they migrate up rivers), such as the amphidromous sicydiine gobies; the impact of artisanal fisheries and damming of waterways along coasts and on islands on these species remains to be quantified.

The aim of establishing the Goby Group was to bring together a small, but strong, group of specialists, to focus on issues related to these often overlooked and vulnerable species. There is a clear gap to fill. The Freshwater Fish Specialist Group has called on some of us for assistance in the past, but there is no other group working globally (or even regionally for that matter) on gobioid fish conservation. Taxa are usually dealt with (if at all) on a single-species conservation action. The best approach is to bring together experts from all over the world for the common purpose of gobioid conservation. The threats facing gobioid fishes, whether marine, estuarine or freshwater species, are essentially the same world-wide. Most of the marine gobioids are coral reef inhabitants, so their conservation is dependent upon the survival of these reefs. Freshwater gobioids have the more focused problems of introduced species, diminishing water flows through water extraction and damming, effects of anthropogenic changes (e.g. riparian clearing, mining) etc. Estuarine taxa are largely linked to mangroves and soft-substrate habitats, which are often “re-claimed” or degraded due to overexploitation (as are 26% of the world’s mangrove forests). Conservation efforts cannot be based on regional expertise alone as these issues are global.

Goby Group Membership

Dr Helen K. Larson, Co-Chair, Emeritus Curator, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (Australia)

Dr James Van Tassell, Co-Chair, Research Associate, American Museum of Natural History (USA)


Dr Harald Ahnelt, University of Vienna (Austria)

Dr Gerald Allen, Western Australian Museum (Australia)

Dr Nina Bogutskaya, C/- Naturhistorisches Museum Wien (Slovenia)

Dr I-Shiung Chen, National Taiwan Ocean University (Taiwan)

Dr Joerg Freyhof, German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (Germany)

Dr Grant Gilmore, Estuarine Coastal and Ocean Science (USA)

Mr Frank Greco, New York Aquarium (USA)

Dr Ian Harrison, American Museum of Natural History (USA)

Dr Doug Hoese, Australian Museum (Australia)

Dr Jean-Christophe Joyeux, Universidad de Especialidades del Espíritu Santo (Brazil)

Dr Philippe Keith, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (France)

Dr Marcelo Kovačić, Natural History Museum Rijeka (Croatia)

Dr Peter Miller, Bristol University (UK)

Dr Ed Murdy, George Washington University (USA)

Dr Frank Pezold, Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi (USA)

Dr Gianluca Polgar, Universiti Brunei Darussalam (Brunei)

Dr Radek Sanda, National Museum Vaclavske (Czech Republic)

Dr Ulrich Schliewen, Bavarian State Collection of Zoology (Germany)

Dr Koichi Shibukawa, Nagao Natural Environment Foundation (Japan)

Dr Luke Tornabene, Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi (USA)

Dr Han-Lin Wu, University of Shanghai (China)