Twelve increasingly rare fish species identified as "most likely to become extinct" have received a desperate call for conservation from the Southeastern Fishes Council, which has named the species "The Desperate Dozen." One of these fish, the Alabama sturgeon, has only been seen twice in the last nine years.
All twelve species face dramatic habitat losses and population drops. Five of the species historically had wide ranges, which have since disappeared, while the other seven have always been restricted to fairly small areas, such as individual coves or springs. According to the SFC, "one acute pollution or habitat destruction event" could cause the extinction of any one of these species.
The species all live in the southeastern United States, including Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia and West Virginia. Each of the species can only be found in one or two of those states.
Scientists for the SFC say each species faces unique challenges and threats, but they all would benefit from watershed management plans, as well as assessing water quality in their habitats and developing programs to propagate the species.
The Desperate Dozen are:
• Alabama sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus suttkusi)
• Bayou darter (Etheostoma rubrum)
• Chucky madtom (Noturus crypticus)
• Conasauga logperch (Percina jenkinsi)
• Diamond darter (Crystallaria cincotta)
• Pearl darter (Percina aurora)
• Pygmy sculpin (Cottus paulus)
• Relict darter (Etheostoma chienense)
• Slender chub (Erimystax cahni)
• Spring pygmy sunfish (Elassoma alabamae)
• Vermilion darter (Etheostoma chermocki)
According to the SFC, five of these species are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, while three are listed as threatened. Of those eight, only three have critical habitat designations, and two lack government recovery plans.
This story originally appeared in "Plenty" in November 2008.