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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Georgia mussel joins endangered species list

Sad news: One of Georgia's own has officially joined the list of endangered species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this week that, effective Nov. 11, the Altamaha spinymussel will be protected under the Endangered Species Act, which makes it illegal to kill, hurt or "take" a certain species. What's more, 147 miles of its river home will be designated as a critical habitat. The move comes more than 10 years after the quirky mollusk became a candidate for protection under

The prickly mussel, which generally features one to five spines that can stretch up to an inch long on its back, can only be found in the Altamaha river basin in southeastern Georgia.

The service says the mussel has been listed due to a decline in population, lack of reproduction in recent years, and lack of knowledge of the species' "host fish," which helps mussels develop in its larval stage. The service suggests that such non-native species as flat-head catfish and Asian clams being introduced into the river could be harming the host fish. Sediment from "forestry, agriculture, and other land-clearing activities" could also be contributing to the decline in population.

The species' designated critical habitat will include 147 miles of channel in the Altamaha and lower Ocmulgee and Ohoopee rivers in Appling, Ben Hill, Coffee, Jeff Davis, Long, Montgomery, Tattnall, Telfair, Toombs, Wayne, and Wheeler counties.

According to the Macon Telegraph, the service estimates the critical habitat to have an estimated $37,000 negative impact on the economy over 30 years, mostly in the power and generation sectors of the economy.

A full copy of the fish and wildlife service's ruling can be found here.

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