Following a settlement with a conservationist group, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pledged that it would take into account the possibility of granting protection to two species of colorful freshwater fish in Alabama.
The move comes after the Center for Biological Diversity, a Tucson, Arizona-based conservationist group that fights to preserve aquatic wildlife species in the Southeast, filed a lawsuit against the USFWS.
The plaintiff argued that the federal agency unnecessarily delayed granting protection to seven species of fish and mussels. The two sides reached a settlement in which USFWS pledged to decide whether the species need protection or not on separate deadlines.
The two species of freshwater fish, the trispot darter and frecklebelly madtom, that conservationists want on the Endangered Species List, will see what their fate is by 2017, respectively 2020, according to the federal agency’s schedule.
Biologists thought that the trispot darter was extinct in the late 1950s from Alabama’s rivers. But seven years ago, researchers found three healthy males in the Coosa River watershed. Two years later, the Center for Biological Diversity submitted a request to USWFS to list the fish as endangered.
Hardly this month, the agency replied and promised to give an answer by 2017. The group also advocated for six other species of freshwater wildlife, but the service didn’t issue a decision after more than five years.
“We filed a lawsuit and settled with the Fish and Wildlife Service to get dates for them to decide whether or not to protect them,”
a spokesperson for the conservationist group added.
The agency will decide whether to qualify the species as ‘endangered,’ ‘threatened,’ or to put them on a waiting list. The service can also decide not to take any action.
By 2020, the USWFS must also decide whether the frecklebelly madtom, a catfish that lives in Alabama’s major waterways including the Cahaba and Tombigbee Rivers, needs protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The group argued that Alabama has the largest diversity of freshwater animals in the world. Sadly, people living in the state aren’t even aware of it. But the frecklebelly madtom and trispot darter are incredibly colorful fish that are on the verge of extinction and necessary steps need to be taken, the group added.
The trispot darter populations dwindled when large dams were built on the Coosa River, flooding the shallow tributaries where this fish thrives. The fish was believed to be extinct since 1958, but seven years ago a group of USFWD and Geological Survey of Alabama researchers fished three adult fish from Little Canoe Creek.
Image Source: Wikipedia