Nov. 28, 2001
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today listed the vermilion darter
(Etheostoma chermocki), a small, brilliantly colored, freshwater fish found
only in Alabama, as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. A plant or
animal is designated as endangered if it is in danger of extinction
throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
"The vermilion darter faces multiple threats, not least of which are its
genetic isolation and vulnerability to changes in water quality in the small
streams in which it is found. The Service and its partners have already
begun stream restoration efforts to benefit the darter, and with the added
protection of the Endangered Species Act, we can begin the road to
recovery," said Southeast Regional Director Sam D. Hamilton.
The vermilion darter is found only on 7.2 miles of Turkey Creek, a tributary
of the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River in Jefferson County, Alabama,
and the lowermost reaches of Dry Creek and Beaver Creek where they intersect
Turkey Creek. The vermilion darter is just under 3 inches in length with a
short head and small pronounced mouth.
The vermilion darter has a small population size. The darter faces many
threats, including those posed by impoundments that have altered stream
dynamics and reduced the species' range significantly, as well as excessive
sedimentation and the presence of other pollutants, such as excess
nutrients, pesticides and other agricultural runoff that wash into the
Turkey Creek drainage.
Other threats to the darter include reduced genetic diversity due to the
darter=s fragmented population, and the potential that catastrophic events,
such as a chemical spill, could significantly reduce its already low
A local conservation group, the Society to Advance the Resources of Turkey
Creek (START), has worked through the Service's Partners for Fish and
Wildlife Program to minimize non-point source pollution within Turkey Creek.
The Jefferson County Commission and START also have worked together to plan
a nature preserve encompassing approximately 630 acres of the watershed. In
addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has worked with the Black
Warrior and Cahaba River Land Trust, Samford University, the University of
Alabama, the Alabama River Alliance and Alabama Environmental Council to
promote watershed stewardship within Turkey Creek. A Memorandum of
Understanding between the Service and Jefferson County Lands Division was
signed to provide current locality and ecological data to the County and to
help address possible sedimentation and non-point source problems that may
impact the vermilion darter.
The vermilion darter will now benefit from the protections and recovery
actions provided by the Endangered Species Act. Species listed as endangered
are protected from take, which includes killing, harming, or harassing.
Federal agencies must consult with the Service to ensure that any action
they authorize, fund or carry out does not jeopardize the continued
existence of the species.
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