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The Bowfin in Pennsylvania

The Bowfin and I first crossed paths in Western Pennsylvania. As such, the Bowfin’s precarious status in that region has always been first in my mind and I follow news about it and the region’s fisheries with great interest. The word of it my interest got around some years ago when the Pittsburgh Tribune Review called me in 2009, shortly after a Bowfin was caught near Pittsburgh, and I was featured in an article published on the event. Whether fishing the Three Rivers, reading in the local scientific history (as in Rafinesque’s Fishes of the Ohio), or simply speaking with regional writers and anglers, Pennsylvania’s listing of the Bowfin as an uncommon “candidate species” holds my unwavering attention. Its status in the Commonwealth’s game regulations is as unusual as the fish itself, and so far as I know, the Bowfin enjoys no comparable status in any other one of the 30 U.S. states the fish inhabits.

The Pennsylvania State Legislature is considering passage of a bill that would severely limit the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission’s ability to list species as endangered or threatened. For example, the short-nosed sturgeon and spotted gar (the latter a common fish in the Allegheny River) are protected under current law. By ending the PFBC executive power to add or remove species from the endangered/threatened lists, the bill would have wide-ranging and perhaps devastating consequences with respect to how scientists manage the state’s fisheries. Stripped of certain scientific and legal protections, the state’s fishes and watersheds could further deteriorate in a state already besieged by the political and environmental consequences of hydrological fracturing for natural gas (a.k.a. “fracking”).

In addition to effectively placing the PFBC under the jurisdiction of a non-scientific entity, the bill also raises questions about  the management of threatened/endangered species. Now, since the Bowfin is not listed as endangered or threatened, but instead is a “candidate” species, it is unclear how the bill would determine the fate of the Bowfin and other candidate species. I will keep readers posted as I follow the story, and encourage everyone – and not only the citizens of the Commonwealth –  to let the legislators in Harrisburg hear their opinion of this proposed bill.

For more on the matter, please read the following link, which contains also links to the text of the bill.

http://blogs.post-gazette.com/sports/rod-gun-club/40397-endangered-threatened-species-bills

For more about the Bowfin as “candidate” species, click here:http://fishandboat.com/images/pages/qa/fish/bowfin.htm

For differences between Bowfin, Burbot and invasive Snakehead in Pennsylvania, see: http://www.fish.state.pa.us/water/fish/snakehead/snakehead.htm

Henry Veggian

Copyright 2014

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