Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 6, 2015

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495,

Two Southwest Fish Proposed for Endangered Species Act Protection

Roundtail, Headwater Chub Among Growing Number of
At-risk Freshwater Species in Arizona, New Mexico

PHOENIX— In accordance with an agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity that speeds protection decisions for 757 species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to protect roundtail and headwater chubs as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The two fish add to a long list of endangered freshwater species in the Southwest, where nearly every fish, frog and snake that depends on the region’s rivers and streams is at risk.

“Our long abuse of the Southwest's desert rivers has taken a toll on the many plants and animals that depend on these oases, and these two fish are no exception,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “I’m hopeful that Endangered Species Act protection for two more fish species will spur action to restore rivers that are the lifeblood of the region for people and other animals alike.”

The two Southwest fish species are beset by a multitude of threats, including competition with, and predation by, nonnative fish and habitat degradation related to livestock grazing, water withdrawal, dams, urban and agricultural development and now climate change. Both have disappeared from more than half of the streams where they were once found. 

“North American freshwater species are going extinct at a rate comparable to the loss of species from tropical rainforests and 1,000 times faster than the background rate in the fossil record,” said Greenwald. “We’re at risk of losing nearly the entire aquatic fauna of the Southwest, which is a tragedy that can't be undone.”

Roundtail and headwater chubs are minnows, closely related to bonytail and humpback chubs, both of which occur in the Colorado River and are already protected. The roundtail chub reaches lengths up to 20 inches and was once an important food source for American Indians. It remains 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.

To date 151 plants and animals have received protection as a result of the Center’s 2011 agreement, and another 67 are proposed for protection, including the two chubs. Read more about the Center’s 757 agreement.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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