Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.

Contact: Noah Greenwald, 406-556-1423 April 2, 2003
More Information: Chub Web



The Center for Biological Diversity and Sky Island Alliance filed a petition today with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the roundtail and headwater chub as endangered species. The two southwest fish species are beset by a multitude of threats, including competition with and predation by non-native fish species and habitat degradation related to livestock grazing, water withdrawal, dams, and urban and agricultural development. "Like so many southwest native fish species, the roundtail and headwater chub are near extinction," states Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Arizona and New Mexico currently have 21 listed or proposed threatened or endangered fish species, including seven species of chub. After the roundtail and headwater chub are listed, all southwest chub species will be protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Despite the number of endangered fish in the southwest, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently disbanded the Desert Fishes Recovery Team, which often took strong stands on protection and recovery of native fish. "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service eliminated a strong advocate for desert fish at a time when most southwest native fish are declining and being added to the endangered list," states Greenwald. "This is purely an act of political cowardice."

Formerly occurring throughout the lower Colorado River basin, the roundtail chub is now limited to 19 small tributaries of the upper Gila, San Pedro, Salt, and Verde rivers in Arizona and New Mexico. The headwater chub is presently limited to 13 small streams in the Gila, Salt and Verde watersheds. "Both the roundtail and headwater chub have been reduced to a handful of small, isolated streams," states Greenwald, "where threats such as livestock grazing, water withdrawal, and development are continuing to impact populations."

According to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, livestock grazing is impacting roundtail and headwater chub populations on at least 17 Forest Service allotments, spread across five national forests. "Numerous studies demonstrate that livestock have a devastating impact on streams, leading to the endangerment of countless species," states Greenwald, "cows should be removed from all streams on public lands."

Roundtail and headwater chub are minnows and are closely related to the bonytail and humpback chub, both of which occur in the Colorado River and are already listed under the ESA. The roundtail chub reaches lengths up to 20 inches and is currently a sport fish in Arizona. The headwater chub is smaller and because it was only recently recognized as a distinct species is not covered by any fishing regulations. The roundtail chub also occurs in the upper Colorado River basin in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. The current petition, however, only concerns the lower Colorado River basin of Arizona and New Mexico. "The demise of the southwest's native fish fauna is emblematic of the widespread destruction of streams and the careless introduction of non-native fish species, such as bass, sunfish, and catfish," concludes Greenwald.


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