USFWS Finds Southwest Sucker Fish Endangered

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Zuni bluehead sucker fish is endangered, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
     The fish exists only in isolated areas of Arizona and New Mexico, in the Little Colorado River watershed, according to the listing action.
     The biggest threat to the sucker’s existence is withdrawal of water from the streams in which it lives, for municipal, agricultural and livestock uses, according to the action. The water withdrawals are likely to increase, further threatening the small populations, according to the USFWS.
     The Zuni bluehead sucker is found in only 5 percent of its historical New Mexico range and in a much reduced range in Arizona, according to USFWS estimates. The small number left make it vulnerable to extinction by wildfire or drought, according to the action.
     The USFWS identified the fish as a candidate to be on the Endangered Species List almost 30 years ago, in 1985, but conclusive data on biological vulnerability was not available at that time. Then in 1996, the category the fish was in was discontinued, so it was no longer a candidate species.
     In 2001, however, the Zuni bluehead sucker was added to a candidate list that meant there was enough information to propose its Endangered Species Act listing, but other, higher priority, listings precluded it.
     The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the agency to protect the fish in 2004, and a 2011 settlement between the USFWS and the CBD resulted in an agreement to speed listing decisions for 757 species across the country, the CBD stated in a press release.
     In January 2013, the USFWS finally proposed the fish for listing as an endangered species, along with 293 river miles of critical habitat.
     Substantial scientific disagreement over taxonomy then delayed the final listing for another year.
     The listing is effective Aug. 25, 2014. The critical habitat designation is expected later this year, according to the CBD.

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