WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can list shovelnose sturgeon as endangered merely because the fish closely resembles the less populous pallid sturgeon, a federal judge ruled.
The Illinois Commercial Fishing Association sued to set aside the rule, arguing that while the pallid sturgeon is an endangered species, the shovelnose is common and not at risk of being endangered.
Citing the “similarity of appearance” provisions of the Endangered Species Act, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg granted the government summary judgment last week.
“Because the rule complies with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act and is adequately supported by the administrative record, the court will grant defendants’ motion and deny plaintiff’s,” Boasberg wrote.
The rule prohibits commercial fishermen from harming or killing the shovelnose sturgeon in areas where they coexist with the pallid sturgeon.
Ray-finned and spade-snouted, pallid sturgeon are freshwater fish that live exclusively in the Missouri and Mississippi river basins. They can grow to 5 feet and weigh up to 80 pounds. The sturgeon’s 78-million-year history has earned it the nickname of living dinosaur. Pallid sturgeon face extinction from habitat alteration and commercial harvesting.
“The designation applies only to those geographic areas where shovelnose and pallid sturgeon cohabitate, which constitutes only a portion of the shovelnose sturgeon’s area of habitation,” the 19-page decision states. “Thus, in areas where the two species live alongside one another, fisherman [sic] cannot ‘take’ shovelnose sturgeon for commercial purposes.”