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Spring pygmy sunfish
TimesDaily, April 4, 2011

Rare fish being considered for federal protection
By Dennis Sherer

A rare sunfish found in Lauderdale and Limestone counties is being considered for protection by the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking comments on a petition that would add the spring pygmy sunfish to the endangered species list. The small, mostly green, inch-long fish has only been found in small streams in Lauderdale and Limestone counties.

Keith Floyd, a fisheries biologist for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said the fish are extremely rare.

“Most people have never seen one nor will they ever seen one,” Floyd said. “There’s a stream in south Limestone where we still find them. We used to find them in a stream in Lauderdale County, but we have not found any there in several years.”

Mike Sandel, a fisheries biologist in Tuscaloosa, has studied the spring pygmy sunfish and said its only known habitat is a small stretch of Beaverdam Creek near Moorsville.

The fish can only live in clear, cold water streams.

“The spring pygmy sunfish is only found on one place on Earth,” Sandel said. “And that one place is severely threatened by urban sprawl, pollution and poor management.”

Discovered in 1937, the sunfish was twice presumed extinct during the 70 years it has been known to science.

The decision to solicit comments on providing federal protection to the fish stems from a petition filed in 2009 by Sandel and the Arizona-based Center Biological Diversity.

Floyd said adding the fish to the endangered species list would not likely cause any hardships to anglers or other stream users because the spring pygmy sunfish is not a species commonly pursued by anglers or used as bait.

He said landowners along the stream could see restrictions placed on how they develop their property.

The creek flows near property that was considered in 2008 as the site of a Volkswagen plant that was instead built near Chattanooga.

Copyright © 2011 TimesDaily.com

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton