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Recovering Endangered Fish Species

 

Background:
Native fish populations have declined throughout the southwest.   Of 36 fish species historically native to Arizona, 21 are listed as threatened or endangered, and one species has gone extinct.   Primary causes of species decline are habitat loss and negative interactions, such as predation and competition, with non-native aquatic species. Construction of the Central Arizona Project (CAP) canal brought water from the Colorado River (Lake Havasu) to central and southern Arizona, which facilitated economic development, but also became a conduit for transportation of nonnative fishes and other aquatic organisms into the Gila River Basin.  Biological opinions of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service were that operation of the CAP canal by U. S. Bureau of Reclamation would jeopardize the continued existence of five listed-species: spikedace, loach minnow, Gila topminnow, razorback sucker, and Gila chub in the Gila River Basin.  The biological opinions razorback suckeridentified two reasonable and prudent alternatives: 1) support conservation actions for the five species, and other native fishes, by implementing recovery plans, and 2) support control and eradication of non-native fishes and other non-indigenous aquatic organisms.

Razorback sucker

 

The Bureau of Reclamation transfers funds to the US Fish and Wildlife Service to administer these two alternatives.  Arizona Game and Fish Department receives funds from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to implement the two alternatives in Arizona.  The Gila River Basin Native Fishes Conservation Program in the Research Branch is responsible for managing the many CAP-related projects for the Department. A technical committee of involved agencies develops and maintains a list of projects; loach minnow new projects are added to the list when old projects are completed or abandoned.  The technical committee includes representatives from U. S. Bureau of Reclamation, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, and receives input from land management agencies such as U. S. Bureau of Land Management and U. S. Forest Service.

 
Loach minnow

Location: Projects occur throughout the Gila River Basin; approximately the southern half of Arizona.

Approach:
Native fish conservation.
As of December 2008, we have twelve conservation projects in progress.  One project is to acquire rare populations of spikedace and loach minnow and bring them to Bubbling Ponds Hatchery for propagation.  Of the five potentially remaining spikedace populations in the Gila River Basin, we have acquired fish from two (Aravaipa Creek in Arizona and upper Gila River in New Mexico) for Spikedacepropagation.  Of the eight potentially remaining loach minnow populations in the Gila River Basin, we have acquired two (Aravaipa Creek and Blue River in Arizona) for propagation.  We searched for each species in the other potential population locations in Arizona (loach minnow---Eagle

Spikedace
Creek and East Fork Black River and its

upper tributaries; spikedace---upper Verde River and Eagle Creek) during 2007 and 2008 but did not find either species.  We will continue the search in future years.  Another project involves stocking and maintaining some of the listed-fish species in two ponds on The Nature Conservancy’s Lower San Pedro River Preserve.  The other ten projects involve repatriations of native fish back to streams, springs, or ponds.  Gila topminnow Gila topminnow have been stocked into ten locations and repatriations are planned in many other sites in the basin.   Several species have been repatriated, but augmentation stockings are planned, into streams and springs on the Muleshoe Cooperative Management Area in the Galiuro

Mountains, and into Fossil Creek
Gila topminnow

near Strawberry.  Repatriations of oneor more of the five listed species are planned for: Turkey Creek and Post Canyon in the Canelo Hills near Sonoita, high-elevation native trout streams on Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, the Blue River on Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, Arnett Creek near Superior, Mineral Creek above the ASARCO Ray Mine, and Morgan City Wash near Lake Pleasant.  

Non-native fish control.
The Department, led by Region 5 staff, renovated (chemically treated to kill all fish) Fresno Canyon near Patagonia Lake during June 2007, and repatriated Gila topminnow back into the site.  Gila chub Gila chubwill hopefully be stocked during 2009.  Region 5 personnel are also leading a planned renovation of Redrock Canyon, near Patagonia, which will hopefully occur during 2009.  Gila topminnow, and other native fishes, will be repatriated to Redrock Canyon after the renovation.  The Department, led by

Gila chub

Research Branch, renovated a portion of Bonita Creek near Safford during October 2008; Bureau of Reclamation finished a fish barrier in summer 2008.  Native fish, which were salvaged and held, were returned to the stream after the renovation, and spikedace, loach minnow, Gila topminnow, and desert pupfish were stocked into the newly renovated stream.  Research Branch and Region 6 personnel are planning for a renovation of Spring Creek, a tributary to Tonto Creek west of Young.  The renovation will occur after Bureau of Reclamation builds a fish barrier on the stream.

Benefits: 
The Department and cooperating agencies will benefit by implementing actions that will contribute to recovery of the five listed fish species and that will help conserve other native fish species.  Information gathered will be used in an adaptive fashion to improve repatriation site selection, renovation, and stocking processes.

For more information contact:
Anthony Robinson, Arizona Game and Fish Department
5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086-5000.
Phone: (623) 236-7376           E-mail: trobinson@azgfd.gov

 
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