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For Immediate Release, June 11, 2013

Contact:  Jaclyn Lopez, (727) 490-9190

Alabama Shad One Step Closer to Endangered Species Act Protection

Populations Dwindling in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi and Missouri

WASHINGTON— In response to a petition and lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Alabama shad, a silvery, schooling fish that once thrived in the Southeast but has been reduced to a fraction of its former numbers, will be considered for Endangered Species Act protection. The shad was once abundant but is now rarely found in most of its former range because of dams, pollution and habitat destruction.

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

“The Alabama shad was once common enough to support a major commercial fishery,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida staff attorney with the Center. “That fishery is now dead and the shad is on the brink of extinction. But there’s still hope — shad can rebound fairly quickly if we give them a little help and remove the obstacles to their recovery.”

Alabama shad once occurred in rivers from Florida to Oklahoma, but today only a handful of populations survive. The shad’s decline is typical of many freshwater animals in the Southeast, where longstanding abuse and neglect of the region’s waterways have led to dramatic decreases in 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 Fisheries Service rejected 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, within 90 days, a new finding regarding the need for a status review.

“The shad’s precarious state has already been recognized by a number of scientific organizations and states,” said Lopez. “We hope the Fisheries Service seizes this opportunity to give Endangered Species Act protection to the species and develop a plan for its recovery.”

The shad was recognized as a candidate for protection by the Fisheries Service in 1997. It was 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 6 to 8 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 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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