Press Release
Tiny Fish Native to Mobile River Basin is Proposed for Federal Protection

Contact: Denise Rowell,, 251-656-3490

A tiny fish living in rivers and streams of Alabama’s Mobile River Basin is dwindling. 

Records show the coal darter once thrived in the Black Warrior, Cahaba, and lower Coosa River systems. But in the future, the fish is at risk of disappearing from its range due to habitat loss and degradation resulting from land use changes and climate change climate change
Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.

Learn more about climate change

Because of these threats, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list the coal darter as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. 

The fish needs clean flowing water and large streams with swift currents and stable substrates to survive. 

“Listing the coal darter can benefit residents and wildlife, alike, by ensuring local river water is clean and healthy,” said acting Southeast Regional Director Mike Oetker. “The Service relies on community involvement in our decision-making process, and we will always follow the science when proposing protections for the sensitive species of Alabama,”

The Service is also proposing a 4(d) rule for the coal darter. These rules provide for the conservation of a threatened species by tailoring protections to those needed to prevent further decline and facilitate recovery. The proposed 4(d) rule would allow channel restoration projects that create natural, stable, and ecologically functioning streams. The 4(d) rule also allows for streambank stabilization projects that reduce bank erosion, instream sedimentation, and improve habitat conditions for the species.

As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, it’s important to note that darters are an integral part of freshwater stream ecosystems. Being sensitive species, the presence of darters in rivers and streams signifies high water quality, making them good indicators of watershed health. Darters are also extremely diverse and contribute to the exceptional fish diversity of the southeastern United States.

For more information on the proposal to list the coal darter as threatened with a 4(d) rule, please read our Frequently Asked Questions.

The proposed rule will publish in the Federal Register on December 21, 2023. Comments on the proposal must be submitted by February 20, 2024 and may be submitted online via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at Search for Docket FWS-R4-ES-2023-0220 which is the docket number for this proposed rulemaking. Or you can submit comments via hard copy by U.S. mail to:  Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R4-ES-2023-0220, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: PRB/3W, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041–3803. Requests for public hearings must be submitted to the address below by: February 5, 2024.

Alabama Field Office, 1208-B Main Street, Daphne, AL 36526

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Aquatic animals