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For Immediate Release, September 18, 2013

Contact: Jaclyn Lopez, (727) 490-9190,

Alabama Shad One Step Closer to Endangered Species Act Protection

Once-thriving Fish Now Rare Due to Destruction of Southeast Rivers

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— As a result of a petition and lawsuit, then settlement agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced today that the Alabama shad may warrant Endangered Species Act protection. The silvery, schooling fish that once thrived in the Southeast has been reduced to a fraction of its former numbers because of dams, pollution and habitat destruction.

Alabama shad map
Click to view a PDF of distribution map.

“We’ve known for a long time that shad were in big trouble,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida staff attorney with the Center. “With this decision there’s finally hope that we can take the steps necessary to reverse decades of damage and bring these fish back from the brink.”

Alabama shad once occurred in rivers from Florida to Oklahoma, but today only a handful of populations survive. Longstanding misuse of the region’s waterways has led to dramatic decreases of hundreds of species in what is widely recognized as a region of unparalleled freshwater biodiversity.

In 2010 the Center petitioned for Endangered Species Act protection for 404 species dependent on southeastern rivers and streams, including the shad. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued positive initial findings on 374 of these species, meaning they will all get a status review to determine if protection is warranted. For the shad, however, the National Marine Fisheries Service stepped in to reject protection even before a status review was conducted. The Center challenged that determination in federal district court, which led to the settlement agreement requiring the agency to issue today’s finding on the need for a status review.

The shad was recognized as a candidate for protection by the Fisheries Service in 1997 and switched to a “species of concern” in 2004, at which time the Service said it would conduct a status review, which has yet to occur.

Alabama shad spend most of their six-year life in the ocean, returning to freshwater rivers to breed. Juvenile shad remain in fresh water for the first six to eight months of their lives, feeding on small fishes and invertebrates. Populations of the shad are thought to remain in the Conecuh River in Alabama; the Apalachicola and Choctawhatchee rivers in Florida; the Pascagoula River in Mississippi; the Ouachita River in Arkansas; and the Missouri, Gasconade, Osage and Meramec rivers in Missouri.

Learn more about our campaign to stop the Southeast freshwater extinction crisis.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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