As part of an agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed Endangered Species Act protection for two Texas fishes, along with 623 miles of river habitat. The sharpnose shiner and smalleye shiner are small minnows that live only in prairie streams in the arid upper Brazos River watershed. The shiners have been lost from more than half of their historical range and now survive in only one highly endangeredpopulation.
“Without help, these two unique Texas fishes will disappear forever. Endangered Species Act protection will make sure that the shiners and their habitat are around for future generations,” said Tierra Curry, a biologist at the Center.
The shiners are severely threatened by decreased water flows due to reservoirs, drought, groundwater pumping, salt cedar invasion and global climate change. The fishes nearly went extinct in 2011 when Texas experienced the worst drought on record and the upper Brazos ran dry. State fish biologists rescued shiners and held a small population in captivity until river flows returned the following year. Endangered Species Act protection will make greater funding available for activities to protect and restore the shiners.
The shiners need wide, shallow flowing water with sandy substrate. To reproduce, their eggs and larvae have to remain suspended in flowing water. If the water isn’t flowing fast enough, the eggs and juveniles sink to the bottom and die. Experiments have shown that the fishes need flows of 92 to 227 cubic feet per second to reproduce. They also need at least 171 miles of undammed flowing water for the juveniles to reach maturity. The fishes only live for one to two years, so two years of drought could drive them to extinction. More....