Press Release
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces Availability of Pearl Darter Draft Recovery Plan
Media Contacts

A draft recovery plan is now available for the pearl darter, a small fish listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Once native to the Pascagoula River system of Mississippi and the Pearl River system of Mississippi and Louisiana, the pearl darter continues to survive in the Pascagoula River system but has not been seen in the Pearl River system for more than 40 years.

Listed in 2017, along with a 4(d) rule to provide for conservation of the species, the pearl darter suffers from population declines due to poor water quality and degraded stream and river channels. Nonpoint-source pollution (land-surface and stormwater runoff) and point-source pollution, such as wastewater discharged from treatment plants and industrial sites, continue to affect the pearl darter’s remaining habitats. The pearl darter’s localized distribution, apparent low population numbers, and low genetic diversity make it more vulnerable to catastrophic events such as drought, storms, and oil or chemical spills.

The recovery plan drafted for the pearl darter includes specific criteria for determining when it should be considered for delisting, removing it from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The draft plan lists site-specific actions that will be necessary to meet those criteria and estimates the time and costs required for implementing actions necessary to achieve recovery.

To promote and support the conservation and survival of endangered and threatened species, and provide a transparent path to achieving recovery, the Service and its partners develop and implement recovery plans. Recovery plans are unique to each species and serve as central organizing tools that provide important guidance on methods of minimizing threats to listed species, such as restoring and acquiring habitat, removing introduced predators or invasive species invasive species
An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

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, conducting surveys, monitoring individual populations, and breeding species in captivity and releasing them into their historical range. Recovery plans identify measurable and objective criteria against which progress toward recovery of a species can be tracked over time. Recovery plans are guidance and not regulatory documents, and no agency or entity is required by the ESA to implement actions in a recovery plan.

The Service recently revised the recovery planning process for all our species, nationwide. With this revised process, actual on‐the‐ground activities for implementing the actions in the recovery plan are described in a separate document known as the Recovery Implementation Strategy (RIS). The RIS is intended to be an adaptable, nimble operational plan for stepping down recovery plan actions into manageable, step‐by‐step activities. This adaptive mechanism is intended to allow the plan to focus on a longer, more strategic timeframe while providing greater flexibility in how we implement the recovery plan.  

The Service is seeking review and comment on the draft recovery plan for the pearl darter from local, state, and federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and the public. Specifically, we are seeking submission of any information that enhances the necessary understanding of the (1) species’ biology and threats and (2) recovery needs and related implementation issues or concerns. This ensures that we have assembled, considered, and incorporated the best available scientific and commercial information into the draft recovery plan for this species. 

The draft recovery plan is available for download at the following websites:

To obtain a copy by mail, send a request to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mississippi Ecological Services Field Office, 6578 Dogwood View Pkwy, Jackson, MS 39213, or by phone: 601-965-4900.

To ensure consideration, the Service must receive written comments on this draft recovery plan by March 24, 2023. However, we will accept information about any species at any time. 

You may submit comments in writing by any one of the following methods:

By U.S. mail to Matthew Wagner, Mississippi Ecological Service Field Office, 6578 Dogwood View Parkway, Jackson, MS 39213; or 


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Story Tags

Aquatic animals
Endangered and/or Threatened species
Freshwater fish