This rare Alabama mussel is now federally protected as endangered—learn more

Endangered
The Canoe Creek clubshell. (Todd Fobian / Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources)

An Alabama mussel on the brink of extinction now has federal protections, along with critical habitat protections.  Keep reading to learn what this means for the Canoe Creek clubshell.

The Canoe Creek clubshell

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Now federally protected. (Frank Chitwood / Coosa Riverkeeper)

A mussel found only in St. Clair and Etowah counties in Alabama is now an endangered species.

According to a news release from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Canoe Creek club shell is about 3.5 inches long, with a dark yellow or brown outer shell, a mother-of-pearl white inner shell and a pink-orange soft body.

The Canoe Creek clubshell needs clean, flowing water to survive. Threats like sedimentation, poor water quality and climate change have combined to devastate the mussel’s populations.

Now an endangered species

After reviewing the best available science, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the Canoe Creek clubshell as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

The Wildlife Service also designated 36.3 miles of the two creeks as critical habit for the clubshell, implementing protections for those stretches of water.

“Endangered Species Act protections for the Canoe Creek clubshell will inspire diverse partnerships that will not only protect a freshwater mussel on the verge of extinction, but a watershed that supports local communities and countless other wildlife.” 

Leopoldo Miranda-Castro, Service Regional Director, Alabama Rivers Aliiance

What this means

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Big Canoe Creek. (Alabama Flatwaters)

The decision means stricter oversight of Big Canoe Creek and Little Canoe Creek West where the mussel lives.

Establishing critical habitat will raise awareness of the needs of the Canoe Creek clubshell and focus the efforts of conservation partners. It also alerts federal agencies that they are required to make special conservation efforts when they work, fund or permit activities in those areas.

“Mussels are essential to helping keep our waters clean. Protecting Alabama’s unparalleled biodiversity in the face of climate change and other threats is imperative. The Endangered Species Act is a powerful tool for protecting fragile species. It is encouraging to see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service utilizing this important tool to protect the Canoe Creek clubshell.

Cindy Lowry, MPA, Executive Director, Alabama Rivers Alliance

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Callie Puryear
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