Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 18, 2018

Contact: Perrin de Jong, (828) 252-4646,

Lawsuit Launched to Speed Endangered Species Protection for North Carolina Fish, Salamander

Seven-year Delay Has Increased Extinction Risk for Carolina Madtom, Waterdog

ASHEVILLE, N.C.— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to act on petitions to protect two imperiled aquatic species in eastern North Carolina under the Endangered Species Act.

The lawsuit will seek protection for the Carolina madtom, a small catfish fighting for survival in the Tar River basin, and the Neuse River waterdog, a permanently aquatic salamander found only in the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico river basins.

The Center petitioned for protection of both species under the Act in April 2010. The Fish and Wildlife Service was required to make a decision about those protections within one year, meaning the agency’s finding is now nearly seven years late.

“These two North Carolina species are found nowhere else on Earth. They deserve a fighting chance at survival,” said Perrin de Jong, North Carolina staff attorney at the Center. “The madtom catfish and waterdog salamander desperately need Endangered Species Act protection to withstand an onslaught of development, dams and water pollution.”

Long delays in protecting species under the Act have been a persistent problem for decades. At least 42 species have gone extinct waiting for protection. A recent peer-reviewed study found that on average species waited 12 years for protection during the Act’s 40-plus year history. 

In 2016 the Fish and Wildlife Service developed a National Listing Workplan that was intended to prioritize the agency’s workload based on the needs of candidate and petitioned species. According to this workplan, the Carolina madtom and Neuse River waterdog were scheduled to receive a joint 12-month finding by the end of fiscal year 2017, but this has not occurred. 

“The Endangered Species Act is incredibly successful at protecting and recovering animals and plants, but it only works if species are actually listed as threatened or endangered,” said de Jong. “Protecting these two fascinating species will not only help prevent their extinction, but will benefit the people of North Carolina by helping to restore the state’s rivers.”

Carolina madtom

Carolina madtom photo courtesy USFWS. Images are available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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