The IUCN Red List is the most extensive source of conservation status assessments for species worldwide, but important gaps in coverage remain. Here, we demonstrate the use of a spatial prioritization approach to efficiently prioritize species assessments to achieve increased and up-to-date coverage efficiently. We focus on freshwater fishes, which constitute a significant portion of vertebrate diversity, although comprehensive assessments are available for only 46% of species. We used marxan to identify ecoregions for future assessments that maximize the coverage of species while accounting for anthropogenic stress. We identified a set of priority regions that would help assess one-third (ca 4000 species) of all freshwater fishes in need of assessment by 2020. Such assessments could be achieved without increasing current investment levels. Our approach is suitable for any taxon and can help ensure that species threat assessments are sufficiently complete to guide global conservation efforts in a rapidly changing world.