Feb 4 A two-inch minnow found only in an Oregon
valley will be the first fish removed from the federal
threatened and endangered species list because it no longer
faces extinction, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced
The Oregon chub once swam by the millions in the ponds,
sloughs and marshes near the Williamette River in western
Oregon. Its numbers declined sharply over the last century as
wetlands were drained for development and due to predation by
nonnative fish like largemouth bass.
Fewer than 1,000 remained in just eight wetlands in 1993
when the Oregon chub gained protection under the U.S. Endangered
Species Act. Today, more than 150,000 chubs are estimated in 80
sites along the river valley because of recovery efforts like
restoring water flows, floodplain reconstruction and stocking in
private ponds, said Paul Scheerer, leader of the native fishes
project for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
"It's a sign of hope not just for this fish, which is sort
of inconspicuous, but for efforts everywhere that partner with
federal and state agencies, private landowners, tribes and towns
to prevent species from disappearing off the face of the earth,"
A 60-day public comment period on the proposal to lift
federal safeguards from the once-imperiled minnow opens on
Thursday. The Interior Department agency is to finalize
delisting within the next 12 months.
'SMALL BUT IMPORTANT'
The Oregon chub eats aquatic insects like mosquitoes and has
a lifespan of up to 10 years. Scheerer said repair of its
riparian habitat also helps rare amphibians like the red-legged
frog and native reptiles like the Western pond turtle.
"Even my own mother said to me, 'You're recovering a bait
fish?' The Oregon chub may be small but it has an important role
in the larger scheme of things," said Scheerer.
"This is an excellent example of how the Endangered Species
Act is intended to function: partners working together to
recover an endangered species," Service Director Dan Ashe said
in a statement.
There are 85 U.S. species of fish listed as endangered and
71 listed as threatened, according to the Fish and Wildlife
Service. Five types of fish, including the Tecopa pupfish of the
California desert, have been delisted due to extinction in the
40 years since the law was enacted, said Scheerer.
Phil Pister, retired fishery biologist with the California
Department of Fish and Wildlife and founder of the
conservation-oriented Desert Fishes Council, said it is
important to save fish like Oregon chub that have no apparent
"When people ask why it's important to rescue endangered
fish, I ask them, 'How would you feel if you were the fish?'"
(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and David Gregorio)