The razorback sucker, a native fish found in the Colorado River basin is making a comeback due to the work of conservation partnerships between the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, state agencies, including the Arizona Game and Fish Department, federal agencies, Tribes, industry and environmental groups.
The fish is also present in Lake Powell, Lake Mead, Lake Mohave and Lake Havasu. As a result, in the future the Service proposes to reclassify the fish from endangered to threatened.
The razorback sucker is the second of the four native Colorado River fish to be proposed for a change in status from endangered to threatened this year. The humpback chub has also been proposed for reclassification. The recovery success of these two fish would not have been possible without the strong partnerships and conservation efforts all along the river.
“Our partners along the Colorado River have restored flow, created habitat, removed nonnative predators, and reestablished populations across these species range,” said Tom Chart, Director of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program. “These partnerships have improved conditions, proving long-term commitments are a key component to recovery.”
The razorback sucker was first documented in the Colorado River system in 1861 and historically occupied an area from Wyoming to Mexico, often travelling hundreds of miles in a single year. The species gets its name from the bony keel behind its head, which helps it stay put when flows increase. Razorback sucker are part of the lake sucker family, preferring low-velocity habitats, in either backwaters, floodplains or reservoirs and evolved in an ecosystem with one large-bodied predator: the Colorado pikeminnow. Young razorback sucker have few defense mechanisms, making them vulnerable to predation , especially from toothed nonnative predators. Changes in river flows and introduction of nonnative fish caused dramatic population declines