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Freshwater Projects — Native Fish Conservation Areas


NFCA1_OriginalBlueThe status of freshwater fishes continues to decline despite substantial conservation efforts to reverse this trend and recover threatened and endangered aquatic species. Lack of success is partially due to working at smaller spatial scales and focusing on habitats and species that are already degraded. Protecting entire watersheds and aquatic communities, which we term “native fish conservation areas” (NFCAs), would complement existing conservation efforts by protecting intact aquatic communities while allowing compatible uses.

Native Fish Conservation Areas (NFCA) can be defined as:

 * A network of watersheds where management emphasizes conservation and restoration for long-term persistence of native fishes and other aquatic species and allows compatible uses.

* A national NFCA system would include a network of watersheds where resource management would emphasize conservation and restoration for long-term viability of native fish communities, while identifying and allowing compatible uses.

Little Tennessee River NFCA

LTRiver PhotoThe first NFCA has been designated! The Little Tennessee River Basin was designated as a Native Fish Conservation Area on October 14, 2015, thanks to the work of several partners, which include FCF, North Carolina Trout Unlimited, Nature Conservancy of North Carolina, North Carolina Wildlife Federation, and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. The Little Tennessee River  Basin stretches from north Georgia, across the western counties of North Carolina, and into Tennessee. It has long been recognized for the incredibly rich diversity of fish and wildlife found beneath the surface of its streams. The basin is home to more than 100 species of fish, as well as mussels, snails, crayfish, and aquatic plants, including a number of state and federally listed threatened or endangered species.

The designation was developed by Trout Unlimited, the Federation of Fly Fisheries and the Fisheries Conservation Foundation and embodies a non-regulatory approach to river conservation focused on looking at river systems as a whole and incorporating the recreational and economic needs of communities within the basin. The designation is based on four critical elements:

  1. The protection and, if necessary, restoration of watershed-scale processes that create and maintain freshwater habitat complexity, diversity and connectivity.
  2. The area should nurture all life stages of the fishes and other aquatic organisms being protected
  3. The area should include a large enough watershed to provide for long-term persistence of native fish populations.
  4. Groups supporting the NFCA should have the capabilities to provide land and water management within the basin that is sustainable over time.

Read more about the Little Tennessee designation here.

Want to Learn More About NFCAs?

FCF’s Board Member Fred Harris, along with other FCF partners and river scientists, are authors on a paper about NFCAs, which appeared in the June 2011 AFS journal Fisheries.

Rivers_FisheriesJack E. Williams, Richard N. Williams, Russell F. Thurow, Leah Elwell, David P. Philipp, Fred A. Harris, Jeffrey L. Kershner, Patrick J. Martinez, Dirk Miller, Gordon H. Reeves, Christopher A. Frissell, and James R. Sedell
Abstract: The status of freshwater fishes continues to decline despite substantial conservation efforts to reverse this trend and recover threatened and endangered aquatic species. Lack of success is partially due to working at smaller spatial scales and focusing on habitats and species that are already degraded. Protecting entire watersheds and aquatic communities, which we term “native fish conservation areas” (NFCAs), would complement existing conservation efforts by protecting intact aquatic communities while allowing compatible uses. Four critical elements need to be met within a NFCA: (1) maintain processes that create habitat complexity, diversity and connectivity; (2) nurture all of the life history stages of the fishes being protected: (3) include a large enough watershed to provide long-term persistence of native fish populations; and (4) provide management that is sustainable over time. We describe how a network of protected watersheds could be created that would anchor aquatic conservation needs in river basins across the country.

Download: Native Fish Conservation Areas: A Vision for Large-Scale Conservation of Native Fish Communities

Wild Trout NewsPic

The poster at right depicts Potential Native Fish Conservation Areas in the Upper Snake River. Click here for a full-page view of the poster. 

Slider Photo Credit: Gary Peeples/USFWS (A Yancey County student, collects stream insects)

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Fisheries Conservation Foundation
302 E. Green Street #2102
Champaign, IL 61825
info@fishconserve.org

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