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Agreement signed to protect rare fish

out redhorseThe sicklefin redhorse is a rare fish found nowhere else in the world other than six Southern Appalachian counties, but a coalition of government agencies and power companies have agreed to team up in hopes of keeping the fish off the federal endangered species list.

In an agreement signed this week, the groups signed off to support an array of strategies over the next 10 years to strengthen and expand sicklefin redhorse populations using strategies such as captive rearing, stocking and a host of supporting efforts. 

Parties to the agreement include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Duke Energy Carolinas, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. As of now, the fish is found only in Swain, Jackson, Macon, Clay and Cherokee counties, as well as in Towns County, Georgia. 

Though Cherokee people have long relied on the sicklefin redhorse for food — a large-bodied bottomfeeder that can reach 5 pounds and 24 inches — it wasn’t identified as a species until 1992. It’s been a candidate for listing as threatened or endangered since the early 2000s. If listed, regulations would kick in to protect the fish, but those regulations can also complicate things when it comes to making decisions surrounding development and recreation affecting the fish’s habitat. 

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