A tiny fish native to Oregon is set on accomplishing a first in the history of the US Endangered Species Act. Until now no fish species has ever been taken off the endangered species list (except as a result of extinction), but the Oregon chub will be breaking that habit. According to The Register-Guard, state and federal wildlife officials announced on Tuesday that a proposal has been made to remove the fish from the list following a successful recovery.
“This is an excellent example of how the Endangered Species Act is intended to function, working together with partners to recover endangered species,” said US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) state supervisor Paul Henson in a release.
The chub made a slow but momentous recovery over its two decades on the endangered species list. When the Oregon chub was first listed in 1993, experts estimated there were no more than 1,000 of the fish living in the Willamette River. Currently the FWS believes there to be 160,000 in the state.
“We’re not saying it won’t need management,” Henson told the Associated Press. “But they can leave the hospital and get out to be an outpatient.”
At little more than three inches in length, the tiny Oregon chub’s population was devastated by the introduction of new predators and habitat change. Experts say the single greatest factor in the fish’s decline could be attributed to the construction of dams and channels in the Willamette Valley to control flooding. As the fish’s habitat was drained to accommodate human expansion, the chub started to disappear. The first step to recovery involved the rivers the fish called home.
“The recovery of the Oregon chub is a sign the river is still alive,” said McKenzie River Trust Director Joe Moll.
Credit for the chub’s recovery does not go to wildlife agencies alone, but also to the conservation groups, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and all the landowners who participated in the state’s program to cultivate the fish on their land.
“This is a big deal for us,” said Brian Bangs, a biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We’ve been working on this for a long time. It’s been our passion for years.”
Image courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service