Eight freshwater mussels in the Southeast listed as threatened or endangered

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that eight freshwater mussels found in Alabama and Florida have been federally listed as threatened or endangered (77 Federal Register 61664- 61719). The Alabama pearlshell (Margaritifera marrianae), round ebonyshell (Fusconaia rotulata), southern kidneyshell (Ptychobranchus jonesi), and Choctaw bean (Villosa choctawensis) have been designated as endangered. The tapered pigtoe (Fusconaia burkei), narrow pigtoe (Fusconaia escambia), southern sandshell (Hamiota australis), and fuzzy pigtoe (Pleurobema strodeanum) have been listed as threatened. The mussels are found only in portions of three Coastal Plain river systems that drain south Alabama and northwestern Florida, including the Escambia (known as the Escambia in Florida and the Conecuh in Alabama), Yellow, and Choctawhatchee Rivers. In addition to listing the species, the Service has designated almost 1,500 miles of river and stream channels as critical habitat.

The final rule announcing these listings indicates that unauthorized collection, handling, and possession of the mussels, introduction of non-native species or biological agents that adversely affect the mussels, and unauthorized modification of the channel or water flow of any stream or water body in which the species occur could potentially be a violation of the Endangered Species Act (i.e., a “take”). The agency notes, however, that this list of actions is not comprehensive. The final rule also identifies several activities that, when carried out, funded, or authorized by a federal agency, should result in consultation with the Service for the eight mussel species. Among those activities are “actions that would significantly alter stream bed material composition and quality by increasing sediment deposition or filamentous algal growth.” Although the Service acknowledges in the final rule that forestry best management practices (BMPs) “are protective of water quality and mussel habitat, and that industrial forestry activities generally do a good job of implementing BMPs,” they still “consider sediment from silvicultural activities to be one of many potential sediment sources within a watershed.”  

Contact information