Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 6, 2016

Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017,

Endangered Fish, Zuni Bluehead Sucker, Gains 35 Miles of Protected Critical Habitat in New Mexico

SILVER CITY, N.M.— In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected nearly 35 miles of critical habitat for the Zuni bluehead sucker, an 8-inch fish with a torpedo-shaped body, in the headwaters of the Zuni River in northwestern New Mexico. The designation ensures that federally permitted actions such as logging, mining and livestock-grazing, don’t degrade streams where this fish lives. The protected habitat is in McKinley and Cibola counties. One-third of the designation is on the Cibola National Forest, and two-thirds are on state and private lands.

Zuni bluehead sucker
Photo courtesy USFWS. Photos are available for media use.

“Through its very existence, the Zuni bluehead sucker distinguishes these unassuming streams from innumerable other waterways in the Southwest,” said Michael Robinson of the Center. “Now, thanks to the Endangered Species Act, this beautiful fish has a fighting chance to continue to swim in its little corner of New Mexico even as our planet gets more crowded and hot.”

The Zuni bluehead sucker was protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2014, 10 years after the Center filed a scientific petition to protect the species. The fish was first identified as needing protection in 1985. Its protection two years ago, and today’s critical habitat designation, came about as a result of an agreement between the Center and the Fish and Wildlife Service to evaluate, and make decisions on, whether to protect a total of 757 species that had long been identified as needing protection. Due to the agreement, thus far 144 species have been protected, and an additional 34 have been proposed for protection.

Over the past century, the Zuni bluehead sucker lost habitat to water withdrawals, logging, livestock grazing, development, and more recently drought from global climate change. It survives in about two-thirds of the areas designated as critical habitat and is expected to be able to reoccupy about a third of that habitat from which it has been extirpated, in Cebolla Creek. The sucker also lives in additional stream reaches on the Navajo and Zuni Indian reservations, where tribal governments are working with the Fish and Wildlife Service to conserve its habitat.

Zuni bluehead suckers feed on algae and aquatic invertebrates, require unpolluted, cool and clear water, and are unable to reproduce in places where silt covers and suffocates their eggs.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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