The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that efforts are ongoing to aid the Barrens topminnow in its fight for survival. The newspaper reports the colorful 4-inch fish is found in the wild only in Middle Tennessee.
Matt Hamilton, with the Tennessee Aquarium, says the problem began more than a century ago.
“In the 1800s, people started bringing the western mosquito fish, which is native to West Tennessee but not here, into these sites for their reputation for mosquito control,” Hamilton said.
The plan worked too well, with the mosquito fish not just eating mosquito larvae but the topminnows’ hatchlings as well.
“They eat the topminnows’ larvae, which lessens recruitment. So the chain stops,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton says the Tennessee Aquarium is working with the federal agency to increase the minnow population.
“The state lists the species as endangered. Part of the project is to reproduce this species in captivity and release them back into the wild,” Hamilton said. “We’re trying to see if we could recover the species before we had to go to the federal endangered species (listing).”
He and Brad Bingham, a state coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, spend much of a recent day wading into Summitville Springs in Coffee County to release adult topminnows into the stream and collect fish to breed.
Bingham said the project would be counted as a success if the topminnows can sustain their populations in 15 sites throughout the Barrens Plateau region, which includes Grundy, Franklin, Coffee, Cannon, Warren and Dekalb counties.
Bingham said they have worked extensively with private property owners.
“The species occurs almost exclusively on private property. We’ve had a lot of good relationships with the property owners,” he said.
Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, http://www.timesfreepress.com