Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 27, 2023

Contact:

Elise Bennett, Center for Biological Diversity, (727) 755-6950, ebennett@biologicaldiversity.org
Jim Williams, formerly with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (352) 672-7298, fishwilliams@gmail.com

Small Florida Fish Is Endangered Species Act Success

Okaloosa Darter Swims Off Threatened Species List

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today removed a small Florida fish called the Okaloosa darter from the endangered species list because it has recovered. After decades of conservation work, the tiny fish is no longer in danger of extinction.

The Okaloosa darter is a tiny, green-yellow to red-brown fish with brown spots that grows to only about 2 inches long. It was protected under the Endangered Species Act as an endangered species in 1973. Following decades of recovery work, it was downlisted to threatened in 2011. Today the species is swimming off the threatened list after making full recovery.

“The Okaloosa darter’s success story is a perfect example of how the Act is supposed to work,” said freshwater biologist Jim Williams, Ph.D. “A firm commitment to conservation and strong partnerships have recovered the fish to a point where we can be confident it will be secure for a good long time.”

The fish’s historical habitat in six Florida streams has been restored to support viable darter populations. Habitat conservation work by Eglin Air Force Base, where the majority of the darters live, has been a driving force in the little fish’s recovery.

As a result of conservation efforts, the Service reports that the Okaloosa darter’s numbers have grown from fewer than 10,000 fish to more than 600,000.

“Congress committed our nation to protecting each and every species from extinction when it passed the Endangered Species Act 50 years ago. It recognized that each plant and animal is vitally important,” said Elise Bennett, Florida and Caribbean director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Okaloosa darter’s story is a reminder that the Act works. It gives us hope that if we act quickly and work together we can solve the extinction crisis.”

Okaloosa darters join more than 50 species of plants and animals that have successfully recovered under federal protection, including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, Tennessee purple coneflowers, American alligators, snail darters and humpback whales.

The Endangered Species Act has saved 99% of the plants and animals under its care, with hundreds of species on the road to recovery.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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