For Immediate Release, July 7, 2009
Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495
No Help in Sight for Disappearing Southwest Fish:
Roundtail Chub Has Been Waiting for Endangered Species Act Protection Since 1985
Phoenix, Ariz.— Responding to a 2003 petition and 2006 lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined today that the roundtail chub in the lower Colorado River warrants protection as an endangered species, but that such protection is precluded by work on listing of other species of a higher priority. With this decision, the roundtail chub will join 252 other species that are listed as candidates for protection. Designation as a candidate does not provide any protection.
“The roundtail chub has been waiting for protection for 24 years, yet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just can’t seem to get its act together to throw the fish a lifeline,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With increased threats from habitat destruction and invasive species, the roundtail chub needs protection more than ever.”
The roundtail chub was designated as a “Category 2” candidate in 1985, which meant Fish and Wildlife believed protection may have been warranted but needed more information. The silver fish remained in this category until 1996, when the agency stopped keeping a list of Category 2 species. In 2003, the Center petitioned to have the species listed as a distinct population segment in the lower Colorado River, but Fish and Wildlife denied protection, arguing that the population was insignificant. In 2006, the Center filed suit and the agency agreed to reconsider, resulting in today’s decision.
“It shouldn’t take this long or require this much litigation to protect a species as obviously endangered as the roundtail chub,” said Greenwald. “The roundtail chub has been lost from over 80 percent of its historic range and is severely threatened by habitat destruction and invasive species.”
The Center and other groups have a pending lawsuit in Washington, D.C., arguing that continued delays in protecting the now 253 candidate species is illegal, because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not making expeditious progress listing species as required by the Endangered Species Act.
The roundtail chub occurs across Arizona and a small portion of New Mexico in tributaries to the Little Colorado, Bill Williams, Gila, Salt, San Pedro and Verde rivers.