Although burbot (Lota lota Gadidae) are widespread and abundant throughout much of their natural range, there are many populations that have been extirpated, endangered or are in serious decline. Due in part to the species’ lack of popularity as a game and commercial fish, few regions consider burbot in management plans. We review the worldwide population status of burbot and synthesize reasons why some burbot populations are endangered or declining, some burbot populations have recovered and some burbot populations do not recover despite management measures. Burbot have been extirpated in much of Western Europe and the United Kingdom and are threatened or endangered in much of North America and Eurasia. Pollution and habitat change, particularly the effects of dams, appear to be the main causes for declines in riverine burbot populations. Pollution and the adverse effects of invasive species appear to be the main reasons for declines in lacustrine populations. Warmer water temperatures, due either to discharge from dams or climate change, have been noted in declining burbot populations at the southern extent of their range. Currently, fishing pressure does not appear to be limiting burbot populations world-wide. We suggest mitigation measures for burbot population recovery, particularly those impacted by dams and invasive species.