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A bright green irrodescent fish in a small blue net.
Information icon Barrens topminnows are small, colorful fish that live only in a few springs and creeks in central Tennessee. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing the fish as endangered. Photo by Emily Granstaff, USFWS.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalizes rule to protect fish unique to Tennessee under Endangered Species Act

The Barrens topminnow, a beautiful, iridescent fish found only in four Tennessee counties, was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act today. The final listing follows a rigorous review of the best available science and information that determined it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

The topminnow was once found at 18 sites on Tennessee’s Barrens Plateau, but recent surveys indicate it is down to just five sites. The greatest threat to the topminnow continues to be invasive western mosquitofish, which prey on young topminnows and harass adults. Nearly all sites where the topminnows currently live are free of the mosquitofish. In addition to threats from the invasive western mosquitofish, the fish’s habitat has also been altered by the conversion of surrounding upland habitat to pasture, removal of streamside vegetation and impacts from livestock accessing streams. Drought has also impacted some of the fish’s habitat, triggering rescue efforts. The Service plans to publish a proposed rule to designate critical habitat at a later date.

Efforts to recover the Barrens topminnow began in the 1970s and have proven successful at producing fish for stocking. In addition, the Service worked with landowners to protect and improve Barrens topminnow habitat. Starting in the 1990s, partners made a concerted effort to restock topminnows into 27 springs throughout their historic range with the cooperation of many landowners.

In 2001, the Barrens Topminnow Working Group formed to coordinate habitat improvement, propagation and stocking. The group consists of the Service, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee Tech University researchers, and nonprofit organizations, including the Tennessee Aquarium and Conservation Fisheries, Inc.


Phil Kloer, public affairs specialist, (404) 679-7299

Mark Davis, public affairs specialist, (404) 679-7291

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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