Center for Biological Diversity

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

Contact: Noah Greenwald, 503-484-7495
More Information: Roundtail and Headwater Chub web.    

September 20, 2004



Phoenix, AZ.  The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to protect the roundtail and headwater chubs under the Endangered Species Act.  The Center filed a petition April 2, 2003 to protect the two fish as endangered species.  Under the Act, Fish and Wildlife is required to respond to petitions within one year.   

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 headed for extinction," states Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity.  "The roundtail and headwater chub need the safety net provided by the Endangered Species Act."

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."

The Bush Administration has only protected 31 plants, animals, and fish to date, compared to 394 species protected during the Clinton Administrations first term and 234 during the first Bush Administration.  The administration has denied the safety net of the Endangered Species Act to more species (45) than it has protected.

"Failure to protect the roundtail and headwater chubs is typical of the Bush Administration's poor implementation of the Endangered Species Act, states Greenwald.  "Decisions about how to protect our rivers and fish need to be based on science, not politics."

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 protected.  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 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.

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 Act.


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