U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Initiates Status Review of the Spring Pygmy Sunfish
March 31, 2011
A spring pygmy sunfish. Credit: Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The spring pygmy sunfish may warrant federal protection as an endangered species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concludes, following an initial review of a petition seeking to protect the species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The decision, commonly known as a 90-day finding, means that the information provided in the petition, and available in the Service’s files, indicates that listing might be appropriate for the spring pygmy sunfish. This action is not a formal proposal. The Service will now undertake a more thorough status review of the species throughout its entire range to determine whether to propose it for listing under the ESA.
On November 24, 2009, the Center for Biological Diversity and Michael Sandel, a post-doctoral student at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, petitioned the Service to list the spring pygmy sunfish as endangered under the ESA. On December 17, 2009, the Service notified the petitioners it reviewed the information presented in the petition and determined that issuing an emergency regulation temporarily listing the species was not warranted. In July 2010, the Service received letters from the North American Native Fishes Association (NANFA) and Dr. Bruce Stallsmith, PhD., a professor at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, requesting an emergency listing of the species. The Service responded to NANFA and Dr. Stallsmith that the criteria for emergency listing, dire and immediate threats, was not present. In October, 2010, the Service received a Notice of Intent to sue from the Center for Biological Diversity for allegedly failing to make a 90-day finding on the original petition.
The spring pygmy sunfish is a spring-associated fish, less than two-inches long. Historically, it was found in the Tennessee River Drainage of both Lauderdale and Limestone counties in northern Alabama. Currently, only one known population remains inhabiting a five-mile section of a spring-fed stream in Limestone County. The Service’s research indicates the species’ decline is caused by water pollution and a reduction of water quantity.
The Service is soliciting scientific and commercial data and other information regarding the spring pygmy sunfish in order to ensure that the status review is comprehensive.
Anyone wishing to submit information regarding the spring pygmy sunfish may: (1) go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov and follow the instructions for submitting comments for docket number FWS-R4-ES-2010-0007; or, (2) use U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R4-ES-2010-0007; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.
The Service will post all information received on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that any personal information provided will be posted.
Please note that submissions merely stating support for, or opposition to, the action under consideration without providing supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in making a determination. The ESA says that determinations as to whether any species is threatened or endangered must be made “solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.”
Information must be received by May 31, 2011.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. Visit the Service’s website at http://www.fws.gov or http://www.fws.gov/southeast/