Candy Darter: Background, Threats, and Conservation for an Endangered Fish

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Jem Baldisimo, Kristina Confesor, Ashley E King, Boyang Lu, Gates K Palissery, Veda Raghu, Dominic Uhelski, Isaac J VanDiest


Candy darters, once abundant in the West Virginia and Virginia water basins, now require substantial conservation efforts due to habitat destruction and hybridization with the variegate darter species. Direct human effects have also escalated the destruction of candy darter habitats, making the protection of this important species and what remains of their habitat of utmost importance. With the designation of candy darter as an endangered species and the designation of their critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act, they are afforded powerful legal protections they have not had in the past.

While instances of proactive legislation have been implemented, many proposed and ongoing projects (including infrastructure, extraction, and forest management) are potentially overlooking their risks to candy darters. Any long term impacts on candy darter populations are not easily remedied at this time, and would increase the risk of extinction for an already endangered species. To this end, both future and ongoing projects should carefully consider their direct and indirect impacts on waterways and protected critical habitats. Due to difficulties in obtaining data on candy darters, we recommend the precautionary principle be implemented for any ongoing or upcoming projects that impact either current candy darter range and their critical habitat. We also recommend the completion of relevant research before management decisions are made, especially if the decision would be difficult to revert - otherwise an adaptive management framework can be used. Agencies (e.g., US Fish and Wildlife Service) have already published multiple documents advising how to avoid further harming candy darter populations, and we suggest any other agencies or private entities follow their recommendations during project creation, implementation, completion, and monitoring.



Environmental Policy, Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology


conservation, candy darter, Endangered Species, environmental policy, white paper, freshwater


Published: 2023-09-20 05:19


CC-BY Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:
This report was prepared by members of Virginia Scientist-Community Interface. The analysis presented is entirely our own and does not represent the position of our respective affiliations. Affiliation is for identification purposes only. We have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Data and Code Availability Statement:
Not applicable