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Saving a Species

Updated: Wednesday, August 27 2014, 10:21 AM EDT
Saving a Species story image
Steps are being taken to save a species, while also preserving a part of Cherokee culture.

The Sicklefin Redhorse fish was a main staple for the tribe many years ago, but because of over fishing and changes to the environment, its numbers have dwindled and it could be placed on the federal endangered species list as soon as next year. The tribe, as well as The U.S. Fish and Wildlife, are taking steps to hopefully save the species.

"So this project is a joint restoration project focused on restoring both a rare and culturally significant fish to historic tribal waters," says Michael Lavoie with Cherokee Fisheries and Wildlife. He says "what we're doing out here today is were collecting adult Sickelfin Redhorse from the Tuckasegee River bringing them on shore, doing a surgery procedure where we implant a radio transmitter."

"This fish was historically important to the Cherokee as a food fish. And now it's been eliminated from tribal waters on the main Qualla Boundary. So our goal is to reestablish this fish with traditional Cherokee culture," says Lavoie. "After these fish are moved to the Oconaluftee we will then be monitoring the fish and looking at detailed movement patterns.  As well as habitat use characteristics, which will help us both understand the success of the restoration efforts as well as more information provide us more information about this rare fish life history," he says.

"And so as the fish is been disappearing to a certain extent our way of life as well.  So if your dependent on a resource and that resource is not there any more you can not ever get it back.  So we're really hoping to keep a connection with people who lived here for thousands of years and a fish that's been here for thousands of years as well," says David Gilette with UNCA Environmental Studies.

A total of 10 fish were tagged. They were released above the ELA Dam on tribal lands so officials can monitor their progress by using the transmitters along with the water quality of the river.
Saving a Species
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