Conservation Status of Texas Freshwater Fishes: Informing State-based Species Protections

In Texas, freshwater fishes recognized as State Threatened or Endangered (STE) receive special attention when Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) consults with other agencies on projects that have the potential to alter freshwater systems. Regulatory oversight by TPWD of scientific and zoological collections, fish stockings, commercial fishing, disturbances to state-owned streambeds, and exotic species management must also ensure that no adverse impacts occur to STE freshwater fishes. Furthermore, STE species are prioritized by TPWD for voluntary-based investments in research, monitoring, habitat restoration, and habitat protection. Given these and other protections afforded to STE freshwater fishes, it is important that the lists of STE species be frequently assessed using the best available science on status, trends, and threats to species and their habitats. In 2018, TPWD adopted standardized methodologies, listing criteria, and listing thresholds to comprehensively assess the status of the diversity of species of fish, wildlife, and plants within the resource management purview and jurisdiction of TPWD. This methodology was applied to assess the status of Texas freshwater fishes and recommend revisions to the lists of STE species. As a result, 16 additional species of freshwater fish were recognized as STE in 2020. This article profiles the species conservation status assessment and stakeholder input processes used to identify species recommended as STE, and shares recommendations and lessons learned transferrable to other states that maintain similar state-based protected species lists.

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