Big Step In Restoring Tribal Pupfish Habitat

Photo retrieved from: www.kcet.org

“A Native tribe based in the Owens Valley is applying for a permit to move an endangered desert fish to a specially prepared refuge on the tribe’s land, in an effort to restore a species that was once vital to the tribe’s survival.

The Bishop Paiute Tribe, whose 2,000 or so enrolled members live on and near the tribe’s 875-acre reservation in Bishop, has been working to restore the federally endangered Owens pupfish along with other native fish species on the reservation’s Native Fish Refuge. A pair of ponds at the Refuge have been ready to receive the fish since 2012, when the conservation area formally opened. But these days you can’t just toss an endangered fish in a bucket and move it to a new pond. That would put the Tribe in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act.

So for the last couple of years, the Tribe has been working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to craft a permit that would allow moving the pupfish to their new home. And members of the public will have an opportunity to comment on that permit starting Thursday.

The Owens pupfish, Cyprinodon radiosus, is the largest of the pupfish species native to the California desert, reaching up to two inches in length. Once widespread up and down the Owens Valley in the network of ponds and sloughs that make up the Owens River watershed, the Owens pupfish was once a staple food item for the local Paiute, who caught fish by the hundreds and dried them for storage and later eating.

That bounty ended with the advent of European settlement and resource exploitation. Water diversions and introduced predatory fish such as largemouth bass depleted the Owens pupfish’s numbers to the point where it was actually considered extinct by the mid-1940s.

Fortunately for the pupfish, a small group held on in a series of pools in Fish Slough, north of Bishop. Rediscovered in 1964, the fish were listed in 1967 as Endangered under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, a precursor to the current Endangered Species Act.”

Read more: KCET

 

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