A petition to provide Endangered Species Act protection for the longnose sucker, a fish, in the Monongahela River drainage of West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania failed to provide substantial scientific information indicating that protection could be warranted, according to Martin Miller, chief of endangered species for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Northeast Region.
Longnose suckers are found from Labrador and Quebec south to West Virginia, and west to Washington, Alaska and Siberia. Longnose suckers feed on the bottom of cool, clear rivers, streams and lakes. When harvested commercially, the fish is sold as "mullet."
The petition cited several causes of deteriorated water quality -- with acid mine drainage the most serious -- as the major threats to longnose suckers in the Monongahela River drainage. The petition asserted that longnose suckers in the Monongahela River drainage are separate from other longnose sucker populations and therefore qualify as a distinct population segment of the species.
A DPS is eligible for protection under the Act. According to Miller, although the petition documented the geographic isolation of this population, the petition failed to provide substantial evidence of its genetic distinctiveness and significance to the entire species, which is a criteria required for a population to be considered a DPS.
The Service made this determination in response to a petition received in 2002 from the Fisheries Technical Committee of the Pennsylvania Biological Survey to protect the longnose sucker as a threatened or endangered species. Under the Act, the Service reviews such petitions to decide whether they contain substantial scientific information indicating protection may be warranted. Lack of resources precluded the Service's ability to process the petition for possible endangered species protection until now.
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