The U.S. Geological Survey (of the Department of the Interior) released a compilation of “imperiled” fishies titled: Silent Streams? Escalating Endangerment for North American Freshwater Fish: Nearly 40 Percent Now At-Risk (here’s a link to the page where you can download the report), including the “threatened sicklefin redhorse from the Tennessee River”:
I’ve never seen one of these and had never even heard of it. But then I’m not alone, the fish was ‘discovered’ in 1992. From The Fish Geek:
It appears that this fish, recently discovered by scientists, was once a staple food item for Cherokee Indians in the southeastern U.S. Officials report that the redhorse, which can grow up to 3 feet long and to weights exceeding 7 pounds, is found in only two river basins.
I’m bothered by the Fisheries Society ‘Silent Streams’ title playing off the Rachel Carson ‘Silent Spring’ name, IMO rekindling the same type of hysteria Carson created (banning DDT, which arguably lead to the deaths of millions of people from insect-borne disease). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Malaria is a leading cause of death worldwide: “At least one million deaths occur every year due to malaria”.
Back to the report (pdf above). Huntsville is in the ‘Tennessee’ ecoregion of the ‘Mississippi Complex’ of the ‘Atlantic Bioregion’. We are among the worst places for “number of imperiled taxa in ecoregion” (imagine a swath of bad from Louisiana to Virginia, excepting Florida). The report should mention that our region is rich in biodiversity, so raw numbers may mislead.
The report does acknowledge that “the pronounced increase (in the number of imperiled fish) results from the addition of taxa that became imperiled, recent discoveries… regarded as imperiled, newly added distinct populations, and inclusion of extinct data”.
The “Tennessee ecoregion” imperiled fishes: alligator gar (vulnerable), Alabama shad (threatened), smoky dace (vulnerable), flame chub (vulnerable), pallid shiner (vulnerable), palezone shiner (endangered), popeye shiner (vulnerable), laurel dace (endangered), Clinch dace (endangered), Tennessee dace (vulnerable), blue sucker (vulnerable), harelip sucker (extinct – discovered in 1877), sicklefin redhorse (threatened), smoky madtom (endangered), Chucky madtom (endangered), saddled madtom (vulnerable), yellowfin madtom (endangered), pygmy madtom (endangered), spring cavefish (vulnerable), Alabama cavefish (endangered), southern cavefish (vulnerable), Barrens topminnow (endangered), Clinch River sculpin (vulnerable), Holston River sculpin (vulnerable), western sand darter (vulnerable), sharphead darter (vulnerable), coppercheek darter (vulnerable), Sequatchie darter (vulnerable), slackwater darter (endangered), ashy darter (endangered), crown darter (threatened), golden darter (vulnerable), Tuckasegee darter (vulnerable), lollypop darter (vulnerable), duskytail darter (endangered), redline darter (vulnerable), striated darter (threatened), Tippecanoe darter (vulnerable), Tuscumbia darter (vulnerable), wounded darter (threatened), boulder darter (endangered), blueface darter (threatened), blotchside logperch (threatened), olive darter (vulnerable), snail darter (threatened), sickle darter (threatened), spring pygmy sunfish (endangered).
That’s a bunch of fish. Threats cited include “habitat degradation, fragmentation, and loss; flow modifications; translocation of species outside their native ranges; over-exploitation; and pollution”.
UPDATE: The Birmingham News editorializes:
Alabama’s two chief river basins led the country for fish whose survival is on the line. The Tennessee River basin had 58 imperiled species of fish, the highest number in the country. The Mobile basin had 57 fish species at risk, the second-highest.
The study is the first national survey of fish in 19 years, and it found almost four in 10 fish species in the continental U.S. are in some degree of trouble. A report by the American Fisheries Society’s Endangered Species Committee listed 230 species as vulnerable, 190 as threatened, 280 as endangered and 61 as extinct…
The report is a timely reminder that we’re not doing such a great job of looking after all God’s creatures.
It’s also an encouragement to do better. We have been blessed with much, and much is required of us.
UPDATE: I like fish, but I like people more. The ‘habitat fragmentation’ that the Fisheries Society notes as a ‘threat’ to fish is the series of dams that TVA built. These dams provide electricity for almost nine million people, make the Tennessee River navigable from Knoxville TN to Paducah KY (Ohio River), control flooding, provide water supply, and allow recreation. A little bit of history trivia: the Tennessee River wasn’t navigable above Muscle Shoals until Wilson Dam was constructed – barges would unload at Muscle Shoals, load onto rail and go to Decatur, then either continue by rail or load onto barges again. More (nontrivial) trivia: “Because one barge can transport as much tonnage as 60 semi-trucks or 15 rail cars, water transportation also reduces highway traffic, fuel consumption, air pollution, wear and tear on highways, and the number of tires sent to landfills.”