JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — State conservation officials are working with a southwest Missouri hatchery on a possible plan to keep an endangered minnow traditionally found in five states from disappearing completely.
Jerry Wiechman, a fisheries biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, met last week with staff members at the Neosho National Fish Hatchery to discuss raising Topeka shiners there for reintroduction into state streams.
The shiner can be found in two creeks in Missouri and once lived in a third, but haven't been seen there since 1990, Wiechman told The Joplin Globe (http://bit.ly/1dlJn6q). According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the shiner's traditional territory also includes portions of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota and South Dakota.
There are a few issues that need to be worked out before the Neosho hatchery can be used in the restocking effort, Wiechman said.
The hatchery uses cool spring water, but the shiner is a warm-water fish, he said. Also, the oxygen level of the water needs to be precise and the hatchery needs to determine if it can accommodate the shiner in addition to other species raised there.
"It looks like there's some good potential," Wiechman said.
He said some people have questions about why the state would spend money to protect a small minnow species. If the state can expand the habitat of the shiners, "we can potentially make them so they're not endangered," he said.
Studies looking into why the Topeka shiner is disappearing don't point to a specific culprit, he said, noting that the shiner population generally drops where human activity increases.
"The species is now primarily restricted to a few scattered tributaries to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, and the Flint Hills region of Kansas," according to a Fish and Wildlife Service fact sheet that also links the fish's declining numbers to human activity.
David Hendrix, manager of the Neosho hatchery, said he looks forward to the possibility of working with the Conservation Department on the project.
"It's always great to team up and develop relationships with our partners in the state and federal government," he said. "We're excited about that. It's also an opportunity to educate the public about the Topeka shiner and how it's threatened."
Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com