Extreme Drought Prompts Aquarium Action To Save Endangered Fish

Friday, August 22, 2008
Saving endangered fish
Saving endangered fish

The relentless August heat has baked the ground of middle Tennessee causing water levels to drop to dangerously low levels. Once again, the extreme drought is prompting an unusual rescue scenario. Armed with fine nets and insulated transport containers hooked to oxygen cylinders, biologists wade into the shallow water of Banks Spring to recover endangered Barrens topminnows.

“The water level had dropped about four feet and we were concerned we would lose those fish,” said Matt Hamilton, senior aquarist at the Tennessee Aquarium.

Mr. Hamilton was joined by another Aquarium expert and two biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on this mission. The team was able to save 133 adult Barrens topminnows and 1000 “young of the year”, or fish born at Banks Spring this year.

The rescued fish have been transported back to Chattanooga and may stay at the Aquarium’s Animal Care Facility or be transferred to the Aquarium’s research facility in Cohutta, Ga.

Growing only to four inches in length, the Barrens topminnow is a tiny fish with a story almost as colorful as its scales. First discovered in 1983 in a handful of locations in middle Tennessee, this rare fish almost disappeared forever less than 10 years later. The Barrens topminnow was surviving in just two locations. “This fish by all means qualifies to be protected by the Endangered Species Act,” Mr. Hamilton said. But instead of federally listing the fish, officials decided to try working with area landowners to protect the habitat and begin an unprecedented restoration pilot project to save the Barrens topminnow.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials entered into cooperative agreements with local landowners rather than restricting water and land use. They helped residents identify suitable habitat for the fish and protect those areas.

Mr. Hamilton reports an overwhelming response by local residents who now embrace this conservation effort. “During last summer’s drought one landowner took a garden hose and pumped water from one spring without minnows to one with minnows that was drying up.”

The Tennessee Aquarium began raising Barrens topminnows for the restoration project in 1998 along with partners from Conservation Fisheries, Inc., Tennessee Technological University, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

While the topminnows from Banks Spring are now safe, another site in Coffee County, Tennessee is being closely monitored as water levels continue to drop. “If it doesn’t start raining soon, we’ll have to go up there and rescue those fish. That site has more water in it right now than it did at the same time last year, but it’s very dry there and we have September, October and November ahead of us,” Mr. Hamilton said.


Los Angeles’ Most Provocative Museums

London and Los Angeles are tied at 300 for having the most museums in the world. But London’s tend to be along the respectable lines of the Victoria and Albert (decorative arts), British Museum (historical artifacts), and the War Rooms (Churchill’s underground headquarters). L.A. has collections with very special interest appeal, such as those devoted to stuffed bunnies, neon art, ... (click for more)

Tennessee Aquarium's Biological Field Station Is Taking Shape

The Tennessee Aquarium's Biological Field Station is taking shape six months after groundbreaking. It is a part of the aquarium's Conservation Institute, The facility, located near the Baylor School campus, will be the hub for research and conservation programs of the institute, as well as a centralized location for collaborative projects with other scientists in the Southeast ... (click for more)

Baylor School Tennis Coach Charged With Buying Meth In Whitfield County, Ga.

A Baylor School tennis coach has been arrested on charges of buying meth in Whitfield County, Ga. Philip Johnson, 51, of Ooltewah, was taken into custody on Thursday and charged with attempt or conspiracy to violate the Georgia Controlled Substance Act, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and use of a communication facilities during drug transactions. ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Whiskey Company To Construct Large Distillery At Former Site Of Newton Chevrolet

The Chattanooga Whiskey Company has begun construction on a larger production distillery in the former Newton Chevrolet property at the corner of MLK Boulevard and Riverfront Parkway near the Tennessee River. Once fully operational, the Riverfront Parkway facility will be capable of producing upwards of 14 (53-gallon) barrels per day, making it one of the largest craft bourbon ... (click for more)

Judge Steelman Was Unfairly Criticized In Handling Of School Bus Driver Rape Case - And Response

We are blessed to have freedom of speech in our society, but I am always amazed at the number of folks who voice such strong antagonistic opinions about things without any apparent first-hand knowledge.   As any who wish to criticize the system should know, people get arrested and charged for criminal offenses every day.  The ultimate charge and penalty which results ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Vote For Rhonda Thurman

After studying the Hamilton County School Board quite harshly during the last seven most-tumultuous months in its history, it is only proper that I share my belief that Rhonda is its Most Valuable Player. Four of the school board’s nine members are up for re-election, with Rhonda facing capable opponents in Jason Moses and Dr. Patti Skates in District 1, but let’s never forget that ... (click for more)