Oregon Minnow Removed From Endangered Species List Is First-Ever Delisted Fish

By Josh Lieberman on February 5, 2014 1:05 PM EST

oregon chub minnow
The Oregon chub has been proposed for removal from the endangered species list. It would be the first fish ever removed from the list due to recovery. (Photo: Reuters)

It's rare to read good news about an endangered species--remember the axolotl?--but today is one of those rare days. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed that the Oregon chub, a minnow found in the state's Willamette Valley, be removed from the endangered species list. If the measure is approved, the minnow will become the first fish to recover in sufficient numbers to be removed from the endangered species list created under 1973's Endangered Species Act.

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The Oregon chub was saved by a decades-long effort involving USFWS, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Army Corps of Engineers and private landowners, according to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

"For two decades, this extraordinary partnership that includes federal and state agencies, landowners and others stakeholders has served as a model of how we can use the Endangered Species Act as a tool to bring a species back from the brink of extinction," said Jewell. "The success we have had with the Oregon chub reinforces that, working together, we can recover species that currently are threatened or endangered."  

Habitat loss and predation from non-native species like bass and trout led the Oregon chub to be listed as endangered in 1993, at which time fewer than a thousand of the minnows were known to be swimming around the Willamette Valley. In 1998, a recovery plan was established, and in April 2010 the USFWS changed the minnow's status from endangered to threatened. The Willamette Valley now has an Oregon chub population of 150,000 and the fish has been introduced to 21 new habitats in the Willamette Valley. 

USFWS will monitor the Oregon chub over the next nine years to make sure the population continues to grow. Paul Henson, Oregon director of USFWS, said in an interview, "We're not saying it won't need management. But they can leave the hospital and get out to be an outpatient."

The plan to save the Oregon chub involved introducing the minnow to ponds where non-native predators couldn't devour the three-inch fish. Joe Moll, executive director of the McKenzie River Trust calls these ponds "chub in a tub," and said they were "a recognition that one of the threats chub face are non-native predators that do well here." Private landowners played a key role in the pond plan, taking advantage of federal incentive programs to build chub ponds on their property. The private ponds currently account for 40 percent of Oregon chub habitat.  

There will be a 60-day public comment period before the decision to delist the Oregon chub is final. The USFWS maintains a list of species removed from the endangered species list, some due to recovery and others to extinction. A recent proposal to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list has proven controversial. 

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