Nearly $3 Million Fine Proposed for Killing Endangered Fish

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has taken legal action against the city of Birmingham, Alabama for the accidental deaths of nearly 12,000 endangered fish. In 2008 spring pools containing over ten thousand watercress darters were drained, which resulted in the deaths of about half the world’s largest population of the very rare fish.

Maintenance workers removed a beaver dam back in 2008. In doing so they also unknowingly broke through an earthen dam under the beaver dam, which caused a natural spring pool to rapidly drain. The pool lost so much water many watercress darters were stranded and left to die along with the drying aquatic plants. Reportedly the pond was drained because it sometimes overflowed and flooded a nearby tennis court.

The only populations of the watercress darter in the entire world are found in the Birmingham area. They live in a tiny area and are protected by the Endangered Species Act. Watercress darters are only about 2.5 inches long when mature, and are colorful. Their natural predators are sunfish, bluegill and sculpin.

The Alabama Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources also has made a case against the city for the fish deaths. Their claim is for just over one million dollars, and includes a fine for the killing of about two million protected snails.

Sometimes these situations when government workers make such errors result from the lack of communication between various agencies. In other words, it is possible the city workers were not aware of the presence of the endangered fish. It is also possible they were unaware of how severe fines can be for violations of the Endangered Species Act.

Image Credit: USFWS

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Natasha Salgado
Past Member 4 years ago

Conservation protection is key...fines can and are always paid. In my opinion incarceration is what's needed---give these morons a few years in jail and i bet they'll be changing their ways next time! Thanks

Fi T.
Past Member 4 years ago

Shouldn't they be helped instead?

Marie W.
Marie W5 years ago

Along with the fine, how about a flogging?

Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

tammy B.
tammy B6 years ago

Thanks Jake....again education and communication is the key to avoid mistakes with such tragic results

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers6 years ago

I hope that the Conservationists win their case.A hefty fine is well deserved.

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Annette VanOldenbarneveld

Good, lets keep this ball rolling. Elephants are now endangered - but do not support breeding farms. Help me stop the traditions of torture - Please help me stop the torture of baby elephants that are used for entertainment, their training process is brutal and lasts at least a month.. of cruel torture:

baby elephants need your help! Please Please help!

Philippa P.
Philippa P7 years ago

Great stuff!

johan l.
paul l7 years ago

This is a tragedy of enormous proportion.
If these watercress darters are only found in a tiny part of the world, a much more concerted effort should have been in place to prevent this tragedy.
Just to fine Alabama $3mil or more, is not the answer.
This is a typical case of a lack of communication and should not have happened if everyone concerned had done their bit!