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For Immediate Release, September 26, 2012

Contact:  Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Rare Missouri Fish Proposed for Endangered Species Act Protection

Miles of Freshwater Habitat Would be Protected for Cave and Stream Dwelling Grotto Sculpin

COLUMBIA, Mo.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed Endangered Species Act protection today for the grotto sculpin, a rare cave- and stream-dwelling fish found only in Perry County, Mo. The agency also proposed to designate as protected critical habitat 36 square miles of underground aquatic habitat and 19 miles of stream. The 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.

“This step will not only help save one of Missouri’s rarest fish species but it’ll also protect the freshwater habitats it depends on,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “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 that the sculpin and other species rely on. The sculpin is also threatened by pollution from failing septic systems, poor agricultural practices, runoff from roads and a hazardous waste facility in Perryville. At least two die-offs of the fish have resulted from illegal discharges. 

A number of other Missouri freshwater species have been proposed for protection or fully protected as a result of the Center’s 2011 settlement, including the Ozark hellbender and several mussels, including the Neosho mucket, rabbittsfoot, spectaclecase and sheepnose. Studies show that North American freshwater habitats are some of the most threatened on the planet and are losing species at a rate comparable to tropical forests.

“We can and we must do more to protect the freshwater that we all depend on to live,” said Greenwald. “Dumping garbage into sinkholes that connect to the groundwater is just one of the countless careless ways we treat our freshwater. The grotto sculpin is telling us we need to do a better job caring for the water that wildlife, and ultimately all of us, rely on.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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