Pearl Darter Fish Reintroduced in Mississippi’s Pearl River


Pearl Darter Fish Reintroduced in Mississippi's Pearl River 50 Years After Local Extinction

(Photo : Brad Vest / Getty Images)
Buckets of Pearl darter fish are being reintroduced in the Pearl River in Mississippi.

Officials are restoring Pearl darter fish into the Mississippi canal after 50 years since they disappeared from the Pearl River.

Reintroduction After 50 Years

After going extinct and disappearing from the waterway 50 years ago, a type of tiny fish that formerly thrived in the Pearl River, a river stretching hundreds of miles from central Mississippi to southeastern Louisiana, is being reintroduced.

According to wildlife specialists, a multitude of factors–including oil and gas extraction, agricultural runoff, pollution from urban areas, and dam construction–are thought to have led to the loss of the pearl darter from the Pearl River system.

All are thought to be harmful to the habitat and survival of the pearl darter.

The more than 400-mile-long Pearl River still contains pollution and other hazards to habitat, but authorities claimed that the federal Clean Water Act of 1972 has assisted in making it cleaner.

The area is so clean that according to wildlife scientists from Mississippi and the federal government, there are hints that the pearl darter might be able to thrive there once more.

The region boasts some of the highest species variety in the whole Pearl River, according to Matt Wagner, a biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

In the Strong River, a Pearl River headwater tributary, employees wade in last month with Wagner along for the ride. They carefully lowered dishes filled with tiny pearl darters from a private hatchery into the river.

The area, according to Wagner, has more species than most other sites, and many of them are classified as sensitive species.

Because of their species, they are not very tolerant of things like pollution, intense disruption, and similar things.

According to Wagner, the existence of those species is encouraging for the pearl darter’s potential return to the Pearl River.

Also Read: Large Prehistoric Flightless Bird Takahē Roams New Zealand Again After 100 Years of Extinction 

Pearl Darter Fish

The 2.5-inch-long pearl darter is a bottom-dwelling fish that was listed as a threatened species in 2017. The US Fish and Wildlife Service data shows the species got its name from the iridescent color surrounding its gills.

By 1973, it had not fully disappeared as the Pascagoula River system in Mississippi still had a population in it.

However, that only made up roughly 43% of its historical range.

Wagner has high hopes for the species in the Pearl River and showed his delight by claiming that this is so far his greatest achievement as a scientist. Restoring a species to its former range is extremely rare.

According to Wagner, this is the kind of day a scientist dreams about.

Water samples will be taken regularly to check on the species’ survival. It is hoped that they will flourish and disperse throughout the Pearl system, making federal protection unnecessary in the future.

Later, Wagner stated that the Endangered Species Act listing for the little fish species should ideally be removed.

Critical Habitat Pearl River

The Service is recommending that 517 stream miles in south Mississippi be designated as critical habitat for the tiny fish pearl darter after assessing the species’ life cycle.

Two units make up the proposed critical habitat, one in the Pearl River drainage and the other in the Pascagoula River drainage.

Related Article: Endangered Fish Chesapeake Logperch Spotted in Waterways Given Electronic Tags for Species Recovery 

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