Vermilion Darter (Etheostoma chermocki) The small, brilliantly colored
vermilion darter, a fish found only in a single tributary in Alabama, is
nearing extinction because of habitat destruction and a decline in water
quality. As a result, the Service proposed on April 18 to list this native
species as endangered.
The vermilion darter occurs only in the Turkey Creek drainage, a tributary
of the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River in Jefferson County. It
needs free flowing streams with clear rock surfaces to survive and
reproduce. Vermilion darters face many threats, including earthen dams and
impoundments that have altered stream dynamics and reduced the species'
range significantly, excessive sedimentation that has made its tributary
unsuitable for feeding and reproduction, and other pollutants, such as
excess nutrients, pesticides and other agricultural runoff that wash into
the Turkey Creek drainage.
A local conservation group, the Society to Advance the Resources of Turkey
Creek (START), recently received funding through the Service's Partners for
Fish and Wildlife Program to minimize non-point source pollution of Turkey
Creek. The Jefferson County Commission and START also have worked together
to plan a nature preserve encompassing approximately 730 acres (295 ha) of
the watershed. In addition, the Service has worked with the Alabama River
Alliance and Alabama Environmental Council to promote watershed
stewardship within Turkey Creek.
Alabama Sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus suttkusO The Service published a final
rule on May 5 to list the Alabama sturgeon, a rare fish of prehistoric
origins, as an endangered species. The decision was based on the species'
small population size and inability to sustain a viable population. The
Alabama sturgeon has disappeared from approximately 85 percent of its
historic range in the Mobile River basin of Alabama and Mississippi. Only
5 have been captured in the last 4 years despite intensive efforts by
federal and state biologists. This species was once so abundant it was
caught and sold commercially. Biologists attribute its decline to
over-fishing, loss and fragmentation of its habitat due to
navigation-related development, and a degradation of water quality
Four listed aquatic species share the Alabama sturgeon's habitat and
negative economic impacts have not occurred due to their protection.
Current activities, such as navigation channel dredging, hydroelectric
power production, agriculture, and silviculture, will not be stopped by
the listing of the sturgeon.
Santa Ana Sucker (Catostomus santaanae) The Santa Ana sucker, once one of
the most common fish in southern California, was listed as threatened on
April 12. This fish historically inhabited small, shallow streams and
tributaries throughout the Los Angeles basin. It is now restricted to
small reaches of Big Tujunga Creek (a tributary of the Los Angeles River),
the headwaters of the San Gabriel River, and the Santa Ana River in Los
Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties. The Santa Clara
River population that exists in portions of Los Angeles and Ventura
counties was not listed because biologists believe it is an introduced
Biologists considered the sucker a common fish only 30 years ago, but it
has experienced a sharp decline and now is absent from 75 percent of its
historic range. Because the species reproduces abundantly and tolerates a
broad range of habitats, its decline is an indication of how badly the
stream and tributaries of the Los Angeles Basin have been degraded from
their historical conditions.
Threats to the species include water diversions, channelization and
concrete lining of streams, erosion, pollution, recreational gold-mining
with suction dredges, and the introduction of non-native species that prey
upon the fish or compete with it for food or other resources.
All of the streams known to support the Santa Ana sucker have dams that
isolate and fragment the remaining populations. Reservoirs have provided
habitat for recently introduced non-native fishes that prey on and compete
with Santa Ana suckers. Approximately 15 percent of the current range of
the Santa Ana sucker is on U.S. Forest Service lands, including small
portions within the San Gabriel Wilderness Area and the Sheep Mountain
Wilderness Area of Angeles National Forest.
For more information on listed species visit the US Fish and Wildlife
Service's Endangered Species Home Page <http://endangered.fws.gov>
Konrad Schmidt 1663 Iowa Ave. E. St. Paul, MN 55106 651-776-3468
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