Midwest Region Conserving the nature of America

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Species of Concern

Region 3 Decision on the Status Recommendation for the Northern Cavefish (Amblyopsis spelaea)


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Bloomington, Indiana, Ecological Services Field Office has reviewed the relevant published and unpublished data for the northern cavefish over its entire range. Based on that review the Bloomington Field Office has recommended that the status of the northern cavefish (Amblyopsis spelaea) not be elevated to the status of a Candidate Species, but that it remain as a regional "Species of Concern." The endangered species program staff in the Region 3 Office support that recommendation; therefore, Region 3 has determined that the northern cavefish will not be elevated to the status of a Candidate Species at this time.


The Field Office Status Recommendation indicates that long term population data is not available and therefore a population decline cannot be documented. Additionally, the species exists today over essentially the same geographic range that it has occupied since its description in 1842. The Status Recommendation concludes that the majority of the species' habitat is in fairly good condition. However, known threats to the species, the documented loss of 49 historical sites, and the northern cavefish's narrow environmental requirements make it a species that warrants continued monitoring. Resource agencies in Indiana and Kentucky, the only states in which it occurs, intend to initiate population monitoring programs. This monitoring will provide data to establish population trends and to better assess threats to the species and its habitat. The results of several years of this monitoring will be used to perform another evaluation of whether candidate status is warranted for the northern cavefish. The reevaluation should be carried out within five years.


"Species of Concern" is an informal term that refers to those species which Region 3 believes might be in need of concentrated conservation actions. Such conservation actions vary depending on the health of the populations and degree and types of threats. At one extreme, there may only need to be periodic monitoring of populations and threats to the species and its habitat. At the other extreme, a species may need to be listed as a Federal threatened or endangered species. Species of concern receive no legal protection and the use of the term does not necessarily mean that the species will eventually be proposed for listing as a threatened or endangered species.


The Service recommends that the following management activities be carried out during the interim period:


1) Survey cavefish populations in caves that were not adequately surveyed during 1993-94 surveys, but had previous records of the species, or appear to be suitable and within the species' range.


2) Avoid additional stocking of exotic fish species into outflow streams from northern cavefish sites until the potential impacts of such stocking on the cavefish are analyzed and found to be harmless to the cavefish populations.


3) Determine the recharge areas of caves where bacterial fin disease and broken-back syndrome have been reported as possible chronic fish health problems. Examine the recharge areas for potential sources of contamination, and initiate watershed and cave management practices to eliminate the problems.


4) Study caves with large cavefish populations to determine the characteristics of those caves that are favorable to the species.


5) Establish periodic cavefish censuses at caves where they are known to occur.


Questions concerning this species should be directed to the Service's Bloomington, Indiana, Ecological Services Field Office which has the lead responsibility for data collection and analysis for this species. Questions about the process of listing a species as threatened or endangered should be directed to the Regional Listing Coordinator at 612-725-3536 extension 241.


November 12, 1996


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