On September 21, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to list the Pearl Darter (Percina aurora) as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). This means the agency has determined the pearl darter is likely to be at risk of becoming endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. The pearl darter has been a candidate for ESA listing since 1999.
Once found within the Pearl and Pascagoula River drainages of Mississippi and Louisiana, the pearl darter’s current range is limited to the Pascagoula River drainage. The pearl darter is considered a critically imperiled species in Mississippi due to its disappearance from the Pearl River watershed. It is currently listed as endangered species under state law by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. The pearl darter’s shares its habitat with two other threatened species – the threatened Gulf sturgeon and yellow-blotched map turtle.
The primary threat to the pearl darter is habitat degradation and loss. Water quality in the Pascagoula River basin is degraded due to discharges from wastewater and industrial facilities and stormwater runoff from streets and farms. Industrial operations, such as sand and gravel mining, have increased sedimentation and altered the fellow of streams. The state endangered species listing does not afford any legal protections to the pearl darter’s habitat. An ESA listing would place restrictions on activities that would alter or degrade the species’ critical habitat.
More information on the proposed listing and instructions for submitting comments are available online.