“This fish is a significant find because it tells us that our work to preserve and protect the Tennessee River Watershed is paying off,” said Jeff Simmons, TVA aquatic biologist who helped make the discovery. “Percina apina can only live in the cleanest of streams.”
Simmons named the fish after the clean, clear waters where it lives. Apina is a Greek word meaning “clean” or “without dirt”. Its use in the new fish’s name refers to the silt-free substrates that the fish requires to thrive, hunting aquatic insect larvae such as blackfly, caddisfly, mayfly and stonefly.
For 84 years TVA has monitored water quality and today it assesses over 700 sites throughout the Tennessee Valley, creating scorecards for each one. Clean water is one reason why a 2017 University of Tennessee, Institute of Agriculture study found that the value of recreation on TVA’s reservoirs is worth about $12 billion per year to the regional economy.
The Tennessee River is one of the most aquatically biodiverse river systems in North America; home to about 230 species of fish and 100 species of mussels, many of which are common to the watershed.
Though it is a small fish (4-6 inches), Percina apina plays a big role in the Tennessee Valley environment.
“This is the only Logperch species common to Tennessee, and though you might not see it right away, there is a web of other species that are interconnected to it,” Simmons explains. “Keeping our water clean, keeping this fish alive—this is our natural heritage. This is what we have to pass down to the next generation.”