The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia
14 Life Below Water

14 Life Below Water (19)

Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

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313389018 6003984879614115 2260947738162227737 nBo Baxter (right) and JR Shute examine one of many tanks hosting native fish species at Conservation Fisheries in this photo taken last year. Thomas Fraser/Hellbender Press

JR Shute and Pat Rakes declare semi-retirement, hand over operations to Hellbender Press board member

KNOXVILLE — A career biologist with deep experience in Southern Appalachian aquatic systems is the new captain of Conservation Fisheries.

The highly productive and robust nonprofit aims to secure, augment, preserve and protect the aquatic environs of the Southeast, namely through the reintroduction of native fish to areas they once inhabited 

Bo Baxter spent 25 years as a conservation biologist at the Tennessee Valley Authority. He became an active board member at Conservation Fisheries, Inc. (CFI) upon his retirement from TVA. He soaked up knowledge of its operations and was named executive director as of Oct. 20. His path comes full circle, as he was one of the first paid staff members at Conservation Fisheries, some three decades ago.

Baxter is a member of the Hellbender Press editorial board.

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fresh water Conservation FisheriesA biologist with Conservation Fisheries surveys a stretch of Little River near Walland, Tennessee to determine fish viability and identify rare species for transplantation. Thomas Fraser/Hellbender Press

Human activities have imperiled our waterways — along with a third of freshwater fish and other aquatic species

This story was originally published by The Revelator.

If we needed more motivation to save our ailing rivers, it could come with the findings of a recent study that determined the biodiversity crisis is most acute in freshwater ecosystems, which thread the Southern landscape like crucial veins and arteries.

Rivers, lakes and inland wetlands cover 1 percent of the Earth but provide homes for 10 percent of all its species, including one-third of all vertebrates. And many of those species are imperiled — some 27 percent of the nearly 30,000 freshwater species so far assessed by the IUCN Red List. This includes nearly one-third of all freshwater fish.

How did things get so bad? For some species it’s a single action — like building a dam. But for most, it’s a confluence of factors — an accumulation of harm — that builds for years or decades.

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Snail DarterThe snail darter, which caused an epic battle around TVA plans to dam the Tellico River in the 1970s, was recently removed from the Endangered Species List. Jeremy Monroe/Tennessee Aquarium

The little fish that caused a maelstrom over a TVA dam project gets the last laugh

TELLICO — In a win for endangered species protected by federal law, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this week the fabled snail darter’s recovery and removal from the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife. 

Native to the Tennessee River watershed in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee, the fish has long been an Endangered Species Act icon thanks to conservation efforts to save its habitat starting in the 1970s, when the Tennessee Valley Authority proposed construction of a dam on the Little Tennessee River. The snail darter (Percina tanasi) was central in the 1978 U.S. Supreme Court case Tennessee Valley Authority v. Hill, which solidified the scope of the then recently passed ESA. 

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Chris IrwinChris Irwin poses by the Tennessee River as a TVA vessel makes its way downstream. Thomas Fraser/Hellbender Press

From the courthouse to the river, Chris Irwin strives for purity

This is the first installment of an occasional series, Hellbent, profiling citizens who work to preserve and improve the Southern Appalachian environment.

KNOXVILLE — Chris Irwin scarfed some french fries and drank a beer and told me about his plans to save the Tennessee River.

We sat at a riverside restaurant downtown between the bridges. Not even carp came up to eat a stray fry, but a mallard family hit the free starch hard.

I asked him what he saw as we looked out over the river in the still heat of late summer.

“You know what I don’t see? he said. “People swimming.” It was truth. Nobody was fishing either, in the heart of a metro area pushing a million people. Signs warning against swimming and fishing weren’t readily visible, but he said an instinctive human revulsion likely makes such warnings unnecessary.

We all know it’s an industrial drainage ditch.”

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Chilean purse seineA purse seine on a Chilean fishing vessel captures tons of mackerel. NOAA

We need to navigate to where fish sticks in your mind

You can read Coty Perry’s full report on overfishing at YourBassGuy.com.

When you hear about sustainability, one thing that often flies under the finder is the topic of overfishing. Many will say that overfishing is a natural response to the need for more fish, but it runs much deeper than that.

The goal of this article is not to shame any specific industry, country or company. The goal is to shine light on an issue I believe is highly under-reported by mainstream media.

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Newly hatched Shorttail Nurse Shark pups (Pseudoginglymostoma brevicaudatum) at the Tennessee Aquarium.Tennessee Aquarium
 

Tennessee Aquarium hatches endangered shark species

CHATTANOOGA — The Tennessee Aquarium reached a significant milestone just in time for Shark Week with the recent hatching of three critically endangered short-tail nurse shark pups. 

The diminutive youngsters, which hatched July 7, are the product of three adult short-tail nurse sharks — one male and two females — which arrived at the aquarium along with eight juveniles and eight fertilized eggs from a facility in Canada last year.

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Worsham Conservationist of the Year1Arrowmont supporters Margit and Earl Worsham named Conservationists of the Year by Tennessee Wildlife Federation

This story was provided by Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.

GATLINBURG — Margit and Earl Worsham stood in front of family, friends, and fellow conservationists on stage in Nashville this spring and were presented with a unique award of mahogany shaped like a peregrine falcon in flight.

They were named the Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s 2022 Conservationists of the Year at the federation’s 57th Annual Conservation Awards in May.

It’s a prestigious honor presented to nominees considered to have the most significant contribution to the cause of natural resources conservation in Tennessee. 

HuffPost: More than 50 House Republicans want to repeal a century-old excise tax that bankrolls wildlife conservation

In the latest “gun rights” lash-out from the GOP, legislation has been filed to abolish firearms taxes levied on gunmakers that fund wildlife conservation.

The Republican legislation is framed as a way to defend gun purchasers from odious taxation under the 2nd Amendment umbrella, but leading hunting and fishing interests said the proposal is misguided and misses the target by a wide mark. 

The levy as currently written applies to gunmakers, not individual firearms purchasers. 

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Jim Hill Fellow for Conservation Breelyn Bigbee holds a viewing window with a Logperch in Long Swamp Creek while conducting fieldwork in search of Bridled Darters near Jasper, Georgia.Jim Hill Fellow for Conservation Breelyn Bigbee holds a viewing window with a logperch in Long Swamp Creek while conducting fieldwork in search of bridled darters near Jasper, Georgia. Tennessee Aquarium

Tennessee Aquarium fellowships bring minorities into the science space

CHATTANOOGA — Never let it be said that all summer jobs are created equal.

Squatting on his heels to dangle the flexible hose of an environmental DNA pump into a briskly flowing North Georgia stream, the last few weeks have been anything but ordinary for Spencer Trimpe. With the pump’s droning motor steadily collecting a sample of water to filter out genetic traces of the stream’s inhabitants, he doesn’t bother holding back a smile.

A lanky junior biology major from Thomas More University, Trimpe is one of two students selected as part of the Tennessee Aquarium’s George Benz Aquatic Ecology Fellowship. Instead of manning a cash register or waiting tables this summer, he’s assisting freshwater scientists from the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute with a variety of research projects.

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