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State Fish In Danger Of Extinction

TEXAS - The state fish of Texas is in trouble, writes Jim Swift, but people are also doing what they can to help.

By the time the Guadalupe bass was named the state fish in 1989, it had already been in trouble for 15 years.

"They started to try to recover the species by stocking Guadalupe bass into a couple of streams in central Texas," said Dr. Tim Bonner, Texas State University biology professor.

The restocking proved necessary because back in the mid-1970s, in an effort to improve fishing in the area, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department stocked some Texas rivers with small mouth bass.

Since that was a completely different species from the Guadalupe, no one thought there would be any problem.

Unfortunately, it did not work out that way. The two species did produce young - fertile young which produced more hybrid fertile young and so on, until...

"You know, in the 1990s they found, I think, 8 per cent of the Blanco River population was pure-bred Guadalupes and now there's zero," Bonner said. "So they continued to interbreed with another and so finally wiping out any pure-bred Guadalupe Bass."

So now, Parks and Wildlife is funding a study through Texas State University. Researchers, armed with a permit to use electro shock, are looking for Guadalupe bass so they can be fitted with radio transmitters. The study will help scientists understand the habitat of the bass so it can be managed in the wild and ultimately preserved.

What's the difference?
"They're fish. You catch them; you eat them; they taste good," Bonner said.

What's the problem?
"For Texas, it's a species that's only found here and not only because it's the state fish of Texas, but I think everybody should have some investment in protecting these stocks of species that are only found in this state," Bonner said. "They were here long before we were here. I think it's just that in the spirit of stewardship, that we need to maintain these species," he added.