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N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Helps Launch Major New Fish Conservation Plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 17, 2006) – Leading national conservation officials on April 24 gathered on the banks of the Potomac River to announce a bold new initiative designed to stop the downward spiral in the populations of many fish and other aquatic species. Dubbed the "National Fish Habitat Action Plan," the plan includes strategies to protect, restore and enhance watersheds and waterways across the country, including North Carolina.

"We know that if we want more fish in North Carolina, we need better habitat," said Robert Curry, chief of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s Division of Inland Fisheries. "The National Fish Habitat Action Plan is the first-ever blueprint that addresses this reality on a national scale."

One of the nation’s first partnerships under this initiative is the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture (EBTJV), a partnership between state and federal agencies, including the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, that focuses on protecting, restoring and enhancing aquatic habitat throughout the range of the Eastern brook trout.

Formed in 2003, the EBTJV has spent the last three years developing data on the status, distribution and threats to Eastern brook trout and have now recommended management strategies to accomplish the goal of providing healthy, fishable Eastern brook trout populations.

Brook trout are native only to the eastern part of North America, and they are North Carolina’s only native trout species. They were found in abundance in the cold, clear waters of western North Carolina until about 100 or so years ago.
Logging practices that degraded habitat, over-harvest and competition by non-native trout species led to the brook trout’s dramatic decline.

"Today, strong populations of brook trout are still found throughout the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests as well as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park" said Doug Besler, coldwater research coordinator for the Commission.
Brook trout populations on private lands, however, face a much bleaker future.

"Brook trout are now restricted to small headwater streams that have not been severely impacted by development, logging or agriculture," Besler said. "The EBTJV is a long-term partnership that will help North Carolina protect the populations of brook trout we still have and restore populations we have lost."

The National Fish Habitat Initiative supports many other existing fish habitat partnerships, including the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership (SARP), of which the Commission is a member.

Begun in 2001, the SARP is a coalition of state and federal resource agencies and conservation organizations working together to help protect, restore and conserve aquatic resources and habitats throughout the Southeast by addressing the many threats facing the region’s aquatic resources. A few of these threats are habitat degradation, overfishing and non-native species introductions.

As one of the fastest-growing areas in the country, the Southeast is facing additional pressures on its aquatic resources with the increased demand for fishing and boating opportunities.

"When you factor in that 34 percent of fish species and 90 percent of native mussels designated as endangered, threatened or of special concern are found in the Southeast, along with increased growth and development, we realized we could not manage some of these serious problems on our own," Curry said. "This unique partnership is a positive step to restoring and maintaining healthy aquatic resources for future generations to enjoy."

One of the first projects under the direction of the SARP addresses concerns about declining populations of fish and other aquatic organisms in the Roanoke River.

For more information about the National Fish Habitat Action Plan, visit

For more information about SARP, visit

For more information about the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture or fishing in North Carolina’s public, inland waters, visit the Fishing section.

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