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For Immediate Release, September 24, 2013

Contact:  Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Grotto Sculpin Protected Under Endangered Species Act

Protection for Rare Missouri Fish Protects Clean Water for People Too

COLUMBIA, Mo.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protected a rare cave- and stream-dwelling fish found only in Perry County, Mo., under the Endangered Species Act today, but decided against protecting any critical habitat for the fish based on a newly developed conservation plan. The listing decision was made in accordance with a 2011 settlement agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity that requires the agency to speed protection decisions for 757 plant and animal species around the country.

Grotto sculpin
Photo by Brad Probst, Missouri Department of Conservation. This photo is available for media use.

“Protecting the grotto sculpin will not only help save one of Missouri’s rarest fish species but also protect freshwater habitats for people and other wildlife,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “The Endangered Species Act has been 99 percent successful at ensuring the survival of species under its protection, and we’re confident it can rescue the grotto sculpin.” 

The sculpin, which grows up to 4 inches long, lives only in cave streams, resurgences and springs in the Central Perryville and Blue Spring Branch cave systems. It is threatened by several sources of pollution, including sinkholes where people have dumped household garbage, tires and even dead livestock. Those sinkholes lead directly to the groundwater the sculpin and other species rely on. The fish is also threatened by pollution from failing septic systems, poor agricultural practices, runoff from roads and a hazardous waste facility in Perryville. Illegal discharges have caused at least two past die-offs of the fish. 

Since the species was proposed a year ago, Perry County, the city of Perryville, the Missouri Department of Conservation and a number of other entities developed the Perry County Community Conservation Plan, which is designed to reduce discharge and erosion into sinkholes in order to protect the sculpin and its freshwater habitats from pollution. The plan, which includes sinkhole cleanups, public education and other measures, prompted the Fish and Wildlife Service not to designate critical habitat for the fish. 

“Protection for the grotto sculpin has been a wake-up call for the communities of southeastern Missouri to stop carelessly polluting their water,” said Greenwald. “I hope very much that this plan is more than empty promises and that real action’s taken to secure a future for this unique cave fish.”

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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