By Jeffrey Tomich
A tiny, cave-dwelling fish found only in Perry County, Mo., will have protection under the federal Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday.
But in a related decision, the agency will not require additional protection for the fish, known as the grotto sculpin, by designating a large part of the southeastern Missouri county as “critical habitat."
Instead, the service will rely on a voluntary conservation plan developed by the Fish & Wildlife Service, Perry County officials and residents, and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
The grotto sculpin is similar to the more common banded sculpin except that it has adapted to living in constant darkness. The fish lives in an area of Perry County characterized by hundreds of caves and thousands of sinkholes, where pollutants and sediment can rapidly find their way to underground waterways.
The fish was identified as a candidate for protection in 2002 because of a decline in water quality in the cave systems the fish inhabited.
The main threat to the grotto sculpin is water fouled by contaminated agricultural runoff, sinkhole dumps, industrial pollution and vertical drains. More....