FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Release Number R01-034
June 8, 2001 Contacts: Richard Biggins 704/258-3939,
Christine Eustis 404/679-7287
FOUR FISH SPECIES PROPOSED FOR REINTRODUCTION
INTO TENNESSEE'S TELLICO RIVER
As part of a broad partnership to recover threatened and endangered
species in the Tennessee River system, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
today proposed to reintroduce four native fish into the Tellico River in
Monroe County, Tennessee.
The reintroduced fish would be classified as a non-essential
experimental population under the Endangered Species Act, meaning that
anyone accidently killing or harming the fish would not be in violation of
the law. State, federal, and local projects would not have to be altered
or stopped to protect these fish.
Although there are no confirmed historical records, biologists believe
the four fish B the endangered duskytail darter, the endangered smoky
madtom, the threatened yellowfin madtom, and the threatened spotfin chub B
likely inhabited the Tellico River in the past.
The Tellico River is a Little Tennessee River tributary that is just
downstream from the mouths of Abrams and Citico Creeks, and all four fishes
were found in these creeks. Before the construction of reservoirs on the
main stem of the Little Tennessee River, no physical barriers prevented the
movement of these fish between Abrams Creek, Citico Creek, and the Tellico
"By reintroducing experimental populations of these species into their
former habitat, along with other recovery efforts, we hope to improve the
status of these fish to the point where they no longer need Endangered
Species Act protection," said Sam D. Hamilton, the Service's Southeast
Regional Director. "We have already had some success reintroducing all
four of these fish species into Abrams Creek in Blount County, Tennessee."
The reintroduction is part of a major initiative by federal and state
agencies and private conservation groups to restore and recover native
species in the Tennessee River system. Since the mid-1980's, Conservation
Fisheries, Inc. (CFI), a nonprofit fish conservation organization located
in Knoxville, Tennessee, has been successfully reintroducing these four
species into Abrams Creek with support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the National Park
Service, the U.S. Forest Service, Tennessee Valley Authority, and Tennessee
Aquarium. The proposed reintroduction effort into the Tellico River was
developed at the request of the executive director of the Tennessee
Wildlife Resources Agency. CFI has confirmed that approximately 10 miles
of the Tellico River, above the backwaters of the Tellico Reservoir, have
areas of suitable habitat for the reintroduction of all four fishes.
Once found throughout the middle and upper reaches of the Tennessee
River System, the threatened spotfin chub (Cyprinella [=Hybopsis] monacha )
now occurs only in a few Tennessee River tributaries. The small fish,
growing to a size of up to three and a half inches, has a life span of less
than four years and inhabits moderate to large streams with pools and
The threatened yellowfin madtom (Noturus flavipinnis) is a small
catfish measuring up to about five inches. It usually feeds at night and
is found in small-to-moderate sized, warm streams, usually in the quiet
sections of pools and backwaters. The yellowfin madtom exists in the Powell
River and Citico Creek in Tennessee and Copper Creek in Virginia.
Another small catfish, the endangered smoky madtom (Noturus baileyi)
grows to two and a half inches in length. Like the yellowfin, the smoky
madtom is a nocturnal feeder. With a current population of 500 to1,000
individuals, the smoky madtom was once restricted to Citico Creek, a
tributary of the Little Tennessee River in Monroe County, Tennessee. Now,
however, a reintroduced population is successfully reproducing in Abrams
The endangered duskytail darter (Etheostoma percnurum) is a
two-and-a-half inch fish which feeds primarily on large, aquatic insects.
It is found in tributaries of the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers. Habitat
degradation is the primary cause of each species' decline.
A nonessential experimental population would mean that these four
listed species would remain protected by the Endangered Species Act.
However, the Act=s regulatory requirements are significantly reduced for
these populations. For example, the Act requires that Federal agencies
confer with the Service on actions that the Federal agency itself finds are
likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the reintroduced species.
However, agencies are not required by the Act to take any actions to
conserve a nonessential experimental population as otherwise would be the
case for threatened and endangered species. Therefore, the Service does not
expect the reintroduction to have any impact on these agencies or their
The Service has also proposed special rules stating that there would
be no violation of the Act for the accidental and incidental killing or
injuring of these reintroduced fish. For instance, if a person
inadvertently takes a reintroduced species while engaged in a legal
activity such as boating, fishing, or wading, and the resulting injury to
or death of the fish is not considered the result of negligence, then no
violation will have been committed.
"Substantial regulatory relief is provided through nonessential,
experimental population designations. We do not believe that the
reintroduction of these four species will conflict with any existing or
proposed human activities or hinder public use of the Tellico River or its
watershed," said Hamilton.
The Service invites the public, concerned government agencies, the
scientific community, industry, and other interested parties to submit
comments or recommendations concerning any aspect of this proposed rule to
establish nonessential experimental populations.
Comments and materials concerning this proposal should be sent to the
State Supervisor, Asheville Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
160 Zillicoa Street, Asheville, North Carolina 28801, telephone
828/258-3939, extension 228, fax 828/258-5330, e-mail
Richard__Biggins_at_fws.gov. All comments must be received by August 7, 2001.
Questions regarding this proposed rule should be addressed to Mr.
Richard G. Biggins at the above address, telephone number, or e-mail
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