LR Currents V1, N4, December 2001
New data from ongoing research in Grand Canyon National Park suggest a serious decline in humpback chub numbers in the Colorado River through Grand Canyon. This is one of the last wild populations of humpback in the world. The canyon?s three other endangerd species, Colorado pikeminnow, bonytail, and razorback sucker have long been extinct in the canyon.
Endangered fish throughout the Colorado River now have even more to fear. A new recovery plan issued in September by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) would make survival of these fish species largely dependent upon hatcheries, while river habitat restoration needs go unaddressed.
Fish recovery would not be based on viable wild populations that can reproduce in native habitat, but on hatchery fish being continuously dumped to maintain a given population size. "This is completely artificial,?? says John Weisheit, LIVING RIVERS Conservation Director. "If the river can?t sustain the fish on its own, then there is no recovery."
Bowing to pressure from water and power interests, the USFWS continues to ignore the major problems driving these unique fishes to extinction: (1) dams that block migration paths and degrade habitat conditions; (2) water waste by irrigators and other users, dangerously depleting streamflows; and (3) introduced fish species that prey on and compete with natives. Final recovery goals are expected in early 2002. LIVING RIVERS and others have submitted comments, calling for a basinwide recovery plan that emphasizes dam decomissioning, habitat restoration, water conservation, and non-native fish removal. You can too! Write Dr. Robert Muth, Director, Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 25486, Denver, CO 80225; firstname.lastname@example.org.