Monday, June 18, 2018

And a Little Fish Shall Save Them

A Chesapeake Logperch from Deer Creek, Harford Co., Marylan
Tiny threatened fish found in southern Lancaster County, may prompt more stream restorations
Everyone knows Lancaster County’s dirt- and fertilizer-laden streams have become ground zero for Pennsylvania’s lagging commitments to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

Now the discovery of 4-inch-long threatened fish in a southern Lancaster County stream may lead to more streams being restored.

The Chesapeake logperch, a tiny and colorful fish in the darter family, recognized as a separate species only seven years ago, is a candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.
East Branch of Octoraro Creek before it was restored
The log perch are one of a very large number of small fish commonly called darters (as in the infamous "Snail Darter" of Tennessee. These species are often of fairly limited range, endemic to one, or a few stream systems, and may be hard to locate in a pinch. As such, there is always a question as to whether an environmental change, human caused or otherwise, will cause a local or even total extinction.
Both state and federal agencies want to avoid that because it would mean restrictions on water projects, cleanup or otherwise.

So expect upcoming stream work as part of the bay cleanup in the lower part of Lancaster County to be tailored to making the fish feel right at home.

The Susquehanna River along southern Lancaster County and tributary streams have become some of the last strongholds for the fish, which was discovered by Lancaster County colonial naturalist Samuel Stehman Haldeman in the 1840s.
East Branch of Octoraro Creek after restoration

Two weeks ago, nine Chesapeake logperch were found swimming in a newly restored quarter-mile section of Peters Creek, near the Susquehanna River in Fulton Township.

Though the fish was known to be in Peters Creek historically, none of the fish had been found in the stream section when it was sampled before restoration work began last summer.

“All of a sudden, they’re there. That’s what we’re looking for,” says Matt Koffroth, watershed specialist for the Lancaster County Conservation District, one of the partners for the stream work.
The restoration pictures used in this article are bit of slight of hand. The banks are certainly less incised after restoration, suggesting the level of the stream has been raised somehow, but the "after" picture was shot on a sunny, blue sky day later in a year, so the grass is greener, and the stream is less turbid, probably as a result of lower flow. Kind of like the classic badly lit, out of focus picture of the the fat woman in baggy clothes before the diet, and the sleek, professionally posed, well lit, picture after the diet. Sure, the diet helped, but the photographer certainly helped a lot. Note also that this is not the creek in question, and Peter's Creek itself looks pretty nice at least in part.

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