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Science and Innovations

Colorado River Chubs Won't Receive Federal Protection as Seperate Species

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided today not to list two Colorado River Basin minnows under the Endangered Species Act. Arizona Public Radio’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

The agency proposed listing the headwater chub and roundtail chub as ‘threatened’ in 2015. It’s now withdrawn that proposal due to evidence the two fish are the same species—along with a third fish, the Gila chub.

Steve Spangle of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the agency will conduct an assessment of threats to the newly combined species.  "If the result of that species status assessment indicates that listing may be warranted, we could go through the process again, essentially starting over," he says.

Some dispute the finding the fish are all one species. Arizona fish biologist Robert Clarkson says the scientific literature shows they’re genetically distinct. "By lumping these species and missing this true diversity, you may mask or may not be able to determine localized threats to the species, and therefore may miss management opportunities to protect them," he says.

The formerly recognized Gila chub is already listed as endangered. It will remain protected as a separate species until the Fish and Wildlife Service reevaluates its status.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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