The effectiveness of protected areas to conserve freshwater fishes is limited because these areas are not usually congruent with regional patterns of fish species richness and distribution. We compared the richness, distribution and abundance of coastal freshwater fishes in a biogeographic province of Venezuela to determine their conservation status. We also estimated the relevance of existing protected areas in conserving fishes in different physiographic units and tributaries by evaluating species richness and distribution. The ichthyofauna (72 spp., ~30% endemic, ~10% threatened) was distributed according to orography, drainage and physiographic units. Most protected areas had limited effectiveness for fish conservation, mainly because they were too small
or included only fragments of tributaries or drainages, or because they were located only in highland drainages where species diversity was minimal. To adequately protect freshwater fishes in this province the existing protected areas should be modified and expanded.
Aquatic biodiversity, Biogeographic province, National parks, Coastal rivers
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