Percina jenkinsi, Conasauga Logperch
The Conasauga logperch is one of the rarest darters in North America, known only from a 27-mile reach of the mainstem Conasauga River in Georgia and Tennessee. Over the past 10 years the population size appears to have declined substantially. Reasons for this apparent decline in population numbers are unknown but may be related to recent changes in agricultural practices in the basin.
The Conasauga logperch is highly vulnerable to extinction due to stochastic or human-induced events since it occurs only in small numbers in a short reach of a single river system. Captive propagation to augment numbers may be vital to prevent the species’ extinction until the Service and partners can identify and implement measures to mitigate recent stressors. CFI’s attempt to captive rear Conasauga logperch in 2002 was unsuccessful, despite our extensive experience in propagating closely-related species. However, that lack of success could have been due to not having a good sex ratio of breeders.
In 2009 Conservation Fisheries was offered a second chance to work with the Conasauga logperch and develop breeding protocols. Partners included TNARI, CFI, the Tennessee Aquarium (TNAQ), and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC). Staff from these agencies helped to collect Conasauga logperch for captive breeding and genetic analysis. In 2011 CFI successfully produced over 700 Conasauga logperch from 9 breeders, 7 males and 2 females. The degree of success was quite unexpected, but very useful for the genetics study as well as being able to mark and track these logperch in the wild.
In 2012 CFI aided TNAQ in surveying the entire reach of the Conasauga river that the Conasauga logperch are known from. This survey was not only to detect presence or absence of this fish, but also to collect tissues from individuals to get a better picture of the genetic structure of the population. This survey gave CFI hope in the population because over 70 wild individuals were observed.
On top of this survey work CFI was able to release 2011 propagated individuals throughout the surveyed reach, concentrating specifically on areas in which CFI did not observe Conasauga logperch in the spring. A total of 382 tagged Conasauga logperch were released in the spring of 2012, and many tagged individuals have been observed on subsequent surveys!