Alosa alabamae 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Clupeiformes Clupeidae

Scientific Name: Alosa alabamae Jordan & Evermann, 1896
Common Name(s):
English Alabama Shad

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Data Deficient ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2007-03-09
Assessor(s): NatureServe (G. Hammerson)
Reviewer(s): Adams, S., Albanese, B. & Weller, R. (Freshwater Fish Red List Authority), Collen, B., Dewhurst, N. & Ram, M. (Sampled Red List Index Coordinating Team)
Alosa alabamae has been assessed as Data Deficient. There has been a widespread decline in this species throughout much of its range. It is now thought to be extirpated from much of its former range with large-scale declines in abundance also reported. However, there has been no quantification of the rate of range or population decline. Further research is urgently needed within catchments where it is believed to be extirpated. Monitoring of remaining subpopulations is also suggested to determine if these to are dramatically declining. This species' relatively short generation length, suggests that it maybe able to recover from population declines in the absence of threats. Further research is urgently needed as this species may in fact qualify for a threatened category.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The historical range of Alosa alabamae included the Gulf Coast from the Suwannee River in Florida, to the Mississippi River, westward in the Ouachita River system to eastern Oklahoma. The largest remaining population is in the Apalachicola River system below Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam. Populations also persist in the Pascagoula River drainage of Mississippi (Ross 2001), the Conecuh and Choctawhatchee rivers in southcentral and southeastern Alabama (Robison and Buchanan 1988, Mettee et al. 1996), and the Mobile River drainage of Alabama (Boschung and Mayden 2004, Mettee in Mirarchi et al. 2004). Recent Mobile Basin records are limited to single adults found in the Black Warrior River in 1998 (the first record from that river in more than 100 years) and in the Alabama River in 1993 and 1995 (Mettee et al. 1996). In the Mississippi River basin, this species is known from old records from as far north as Keokuk, Iowa (Coker 1930), the Ohio River at Louisville (Evermann 1902), and eastern Oklahoma (Moore 1957, Miller and Robison 2004). This species has been found more recently in the Cumberland, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, Ouachita, and Red rivers.

The species is sporatic and now depleted in the Mississippi River basin (Lee et al. 1980, Page and Burr 1991). Missouri has some of the last spawning populations in the Mississippi river system (Pflieger 1997). "Since 1988, 88 juveniles and eight adults of this uncommon species have been recorded in 14 Missouri collections from the lower Mississippi, Missouri, Meramec, Gasconade, and Osage rivers" (Pflieger 1997). Surveys in the Arkansas River (Buchanan 1976; Sanders et al. 1985) and Mississippi River (Carter 1984; Pennington et al. 1980, 1983; Beckett and Pennington 1986) did not yield any specimens. Mel Warren (pers. comm.) reported that only two known spawning runs exist in the Mississippi River system (Meramec River, Missouri, and Ouachita River, Arkansas). This shad is known in Oklahoma from "only a handful of specimens and records from the Poteau and Illinois river drainages and from the Little River in McCurtain County" (Miller and Robison 2004). Miller and Robison were uncertain as to whether the species still occurs in Oklahoma. Historically it occurred in the Clinch and Stones rivers in Tennessee, and apparently it was widespread in Tennessee in pre-impoundment days, but Etnier and Starnes (1993) reported no recent records in Tennessee. Etnier and Starnes (1993) mentioned a large adult from the Tennessee River just below Kentucky Dam in Marshall County, Kentucky, collected in July 1986.
Countries occurrence:
United States (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – western central
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Only two known spawning runs exist in the Mississippi River system. Additional spawning runs occur in the Florida panhandle (M. Warren 1999 pers. comm.) and in southern Alabama (Mettee et al. 1996).

The total adult population size of Alosa alabamae is unknown. Populations of this species are small and are now very rare in the entire Mississippi River basin (Lee et al. 1980, Robison and Buchanan 1988, Etnier and Starnes 1993, Pflieger 1997).

Distribution and abundance of the Alabama Shad has greatly diminished over the past 20–50 years. The species has been eliminated from much of its former inland distribution, especially in the Mobile Basin and the Mississippi River Valley (M. Warren 1999 pers. comm., Boschung and Mayden 2004). It is now rare or extirpated in much of its former range in Alabama (Boschung and Mayden 2004). It may have been extirpated from the upper Tombigbee, Cahaba, Coosa, and upper Alabama rivers in Alabama (Mettee in Mirarchi et al. 2004). As of around 1990, this shad evidently was still declining in the Pearl River system of Louisiana and Mississippi (Gunning and Suttkus 1990). Ross (2001) reported that this species may be extirpated in the Pearl River.

Currently, area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and population size probably are declining, but the rate of decline is unknown.

Population estimates of migrating Alabama shad near Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam varied considerably from year to year between 2005 and 2007, ranging from greater than 3,000 to less than 25,000 fish (Georgia Department of Natural Resources 2008).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Alosa alabamae is an anadromous species. Adults live in saltwater and migrates into medium to large coastal rivers to spawn. Mettee et al. (1996) stated that actual spawning has not been observed but probably occurs in open, flowing water over sand bars in late afternoon or at night. In northwestern Florida, spawning occurs at 19–22°C in moderate current over coarse sand and gravel (Laurence and Yerger 1966, Mills 1972). In Missouri, young have been captured in swift water about rock wing dikes in the Osage River and over rocky shoals with a noticeable current in the Gasconade River.
Systems:Freshwater; Marine
Generation Length (years):2
Movement patterns:Full Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Locks and dams built for navigation, hydroelectric generation, and flood control have effectively blocked migration routes to many historical upstream spawning areas for Alosa alabamae (Robison and Buchanan 1988, Mirarchi et al. 2004). High-lift navigation dams on the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers have blocked spawning migrations in the Mobile basin. Streams have been degraded by siltation and pollution, and commercial and navigational dredging of sand bars has degraded or eliminated some spawning habitats. Major threats to the remaining populations in Alabama include increased sedimentation, pesticide runoff from agricultural operations, prolonged drought, and possible reservoir construction for water supply on major tributaries (Mettee in Mirarchi et al. 2004). In the past, harvesting in the Ohio River was considered a major threat to this species.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: State and Federal Agencies are working with conservation groups and researchers to restore passage of Alabama shad to their historic range upstream of Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam in the Apalachicola basin. Efforts to pass shad through the lock by altering lock operation schedules and providing attractant flows have resulted in the passage of shad through Lake Seminole and into the Chattahoochee and Flint River systems in Georgia. A population estimate in 2007 suggested that over 1,000 shad migrated all the way to Albany during that year (Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources 2008).

This species is recognized as a species of concern by the National Marine Fisheries Service and is state protected or listed as a species of concern in many U.S. states within its range. Research into effective fish passages, restoration of hydrologic regimes, migrations, feeding, bycatch, spawning, rearing, and other habitat needs should be carried out (Meadows, Adams and Shaefer 2008).

Classifications [top]

5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.1. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Rivers/Streams/Creeks (includes waterfalls)
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.10. Marine Neritic - Estuaries
10. Marine Oceanic -> 10.1. Marine Oceanic - Epipelagic (0-200m)
12. Marine Intertidal -> 12.5. Marine Intertidal - Salt Marshes (Emergent Grasses)
13. Marine Coastal/Supratidal -> 13.4. Marine Coastal/Supratidal - Coastal Brackish/Saline Lagoons/Marine Lakes
13. Marine Coastal/Supratidal -> 13.5. Marine Coastal/Supratidal - Coastal Freshwater Lakes
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
2. Land/water management -> 2.3. Habitat & natural process restoration
3. Species management -> 3.2. Species recovery
3. Species management -> 3.3. Species re-introduction -> 3.3.1. Reintroduction

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
11. Climate change & severe weather -> 11.2. Droughts
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.1. Shifting agriculture
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.2. Small-holder farming
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.3. Agro-industry farming
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

4. Transportation & service corridors -> 4.3. Shipping lanes
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.1. Intentional use: (subsistence/small scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Past, Unlikely to Return    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

7. Natural system modifications -> 7.2. Dams & water management/use -> 7.2.11. Dams (size unknown)
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

9. Pollution -> 9.3. Agricultural & forestry effluents -> 9.3.2. Soil erosion, sedimentation
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

9. Pollution -> 9.3. Agricultural & forestry effluents -> 9.3.4. Type Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

0. Root -> 100.1. OLD 1.1.1-Policy-base actions->Management plans->Development
1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

Bibliography [top]

Adams, S.B., Ross, S.T. and Warren, M.L. 2000. Literature review, information needs assessment, and research proposal for Gulf Sturgeon, Alabama shad, and American eel: Diadromous fishes of USFS Region 8. In: G. Contreras (ed.). USDA Forest Service, Washington.

Beckett, D.C. and Pennington, C.H. 1986. Water quality, macroinvertebrates, larval fishes, and fishes of the lower Mississippi River--a synthesis. U.S. Army Engineer Waterways Experiment Station, Tech. Rep. E-86-12, Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Boschung, H.T. and Mayden, R.L. 2004. Fishes of Alabama. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

Buchanan, T.M. 1976. An evaluation of the effects of dredging within the Arkansas River Navigation System. Vol. 5. The effects upon the fish fauna. Arkansas Water Resources Research Center Publ. No. 47.

Carter, F.A. 1984. Fishes collected from the Mississippi River and adjacent flood areas in Arkansas, river mile 770.0 to river mile 816.0. Arkansas State University.

Coker, R.E. 1930. Studies of common fishes of the Mississippi River at Keokuk. Bulletin of the United States Bureau of Fisheries 45: 141-225.

Etnier, D.A. and Starnes, W.C. 1993. The fishes of Tennessee. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tennessee.

Evermann, B.W. 1902. Description of a new species of shad (Alosa ohioensis) with notes on other food-fishes of the Ohio River. Report of the U.S. Fisheries Commission: 273-288.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources. 2008. Study seen as key to shad, locks in southwest Georgia. Available at:

Gunning, G.E. and Suttkus, R.D. 1990. Decline of the Alabama shad, Alosa alabamae, in the Pearl River, Louisiana-Mississippi: 1963-1988. Southeastern Fishes Council Proceedings 21: 3-4.

IUCN. 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2010.3). Available at: (Accessed: 2 September 2010).

Laurence, G.C. and Yerger, R.W. 1966. Life history studies of the Alabama shad, Alosa alabamae, in the Apalachicola River, Florida. Proceedings of the 20th Annual Conference of the Southeastern Association of Game and Fish Commisioners: 260-273.

Lee, D.S., Gilbert, C.R., Hocutt, C.H., Jenkins, R.E., McAllister, D.E. and Stauffer, J.R., Jr. 1980. Atlas of North American Freshwater Fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.

Meadows, D.W., Adams, S.B. and Shaefer, J.F. 2008. Threatened fishes of the world: Alosa alabamae (Jordan and Evermann, 1896) (Clupeidae). Environmental fish biology 82: 173-174.

Mettee, M.F., O'Neil, P.E. and Pierson, J.M. 1996. Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin. Oxmoor House, Birmingham, Alabama.

Miller, R.J. and Robison, H.W. 2004. Fishes of Oklahoma. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma.

Mills, J.G. 1972. Biology of the Alabama shad in northwest Florida. In: State of Florida Department of Natural Resources (ed.), Technical Series.

Mirarchi, R.E., Garner, J.T., Mettee, M.F. and O'Neil, P.E. 2004. Alabama wildlife. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Moore, G.A. 1957. Fishes. Vertebrates of the United States, by W. F. Blair et al., pp. 31-210. McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York.

NatureServe. 2008. NatureServe Explorer: An Online Encyclopedia of Life Version 7.0. Available at:

Nelson, J.S., Crossman, E.J., Espinosa-Perez, H., Findley, L.T., Gilbert, C.R., Lea, R. N. and Williams, J.D. 2004. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. American Fisheries Society, Special Publication 29, Bethesda, Maryland.

Page, L.M. and Burr, B.M. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes: North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Pennington, C.H., Baker, J.A. and Potter, M.E. 1983. Fish populations along natural and revetted banks on the lower Mississippi river. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 3(2): 204-211.

Pennington, C.H., Schramm, H.L., Jr., Potter, M.E. and Farrell, M.P. 1980. Aquatic habitat studies on the lower Mississippi river, river mile 480 to 530. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Report 5, Fish Studies-pilot report. Environmental and Water Quality Operational Studies. Misc. Paper E-80-1, Vicksburg.

Pflieger, W.L. 1997. The fishes of Missouri, revised edition. Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City.

Robison, H.W. and Buchanan, T.M. 1988. Fishes of Arkansas. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Ross, S.T. (with Brennaman, W.M., Slack, W.T., O'Connell, M.T. and Peterson, T.L.). 2001. The inland fishes of Mississippi. University Press of Mississippi.

Sanders, L.G., Baker, J.A., Bond, C.L. and Pennington, C.H. 1985. Biota of selected aquatic habitats of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. U.S. Army Engineer Waterways Experiment Station, Tech. Rep. E-85-6, Vicksburg.

Citation: NatureServe (G. Hammerson). 2010. Alosa alabamae. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T908A13094078. . Downloaded on 25 June 2018.
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