PHOENIX — Data compiled by Arizona Game and Fish shows the endangered Gila topminnow is prevalent enough to be downlisted to threatened. As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as found the state’s petition as “substantiated” in its 90-day finding on the minnow’s status.
In a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in May 2018, Arizona Game and Fish outlined that Gila topminnow populations “can now be found in multiple locations within the species’ range and that recovery benchmarks in the service’s 1984 recovery plan have been met.” The state argued that the fish should be reclassified from endangered to threatened.
“After decades of dedicated conservation work, more than 70 populations of Gila topminnow have once again been established throughout the species’ natural range,” said Anthony Robinson, Arizona Game and Fish (AZGFD) Gila Basin native fisheries lead. “This project is a testament to Arizona Game and Fish Department’s commitment to conserve and protect wildlife, by fighting to bring this fish from the brink of extinction, while meeting criteria laid out by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 1984 Recovery Plan.”
The petition is the first of its kind submitted by a state wildlife agency. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has since initiated a status review and will issue a 12-month finding to address whether reclassifying Gila topminnow to threatened or even delisting is warranted under the Endangered Species Act.
“While this process is ongoing, the department and its partners will continue their important work to conserve and protect the Gila topminnow,” Robinson said. “We will work to establish more populations and alleviate threats so the species can eventually be recovered to the point it no longer needs protection under the Endangered Species Act.”
According to AZGFD:
The Gila topminnow is a small, short-lived fish with a general lifespan of about one year, although females can live for about two years. As their name suggests, topminnows spend the majority of their time close to the water’s surface feeding on plankton, small crustaceans and small invertebrates, including mosquito larvae.
Historically, topminnow were the most abundant fish species in the Gila River basin from western New Mexico to central and western Arizona. Over time habitat loss, degradation and predation by non-native fish species brought the topminnow to the brink of extinction.
It was listed as a federally endangered species in 1967. Since then, AZGFD and its partners have worked to restore topminnow populations with the goal of delisting the fish.