Southeastern Fishes Council
Dedicated to the Conservation of Southeastern Fishes

Endangered Fish
November 28, 2006

Release from:

The rare Barrens Topminnow is one of the most threatened fish species in North America. A private pond in Tennessee is just one of the places where native populations of the topminnow can still be found.

Biologists with the US Fish and Wildlife Service collect some of the fish to move them to a spring on a nearby farm.

"That's probably as big as you'll get. That's a large female. See how their eyes are oriented to the top of the head? They can see insects and other things that fall into the water column. I guess that's how they get their name...topminnow," said US Fish and Wildlife Service's Brad Bingham.

Historically, Topminnows lived in cold headwater springs of three rivers in middle Tennessee, but the wetlands have been drained and the springs dammed to make cattle ponds.

Their long-term survival now depends on local farmers keeping their livestock out of the streams and letting the water run free.

"So in order to protect those aquatic species we felt that if we could install livestock exclusion fencing along streams we would get the best bang for our buck," said Bingham.

Dairy farmer Steve Cunningham and other landowners have volunteered to help save the barrens topminnow. "We are as interested in the land and the preservation of the land as anybody else is," he said.

Working together, farmers and the Fish and Wildlife Service have restored and protected 7 miles of streams in the Hickory Creek Watershed.

And this little fish found nowhere else in the world is starting to make a comeback.