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Mohave Tui Chub

A Wish for a Fish...

"In the end, we conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught."

Baba Dioum, Senegalese poet

What happens when man or his actions alters the environment? Generally, the native habitat of some indigenous species gets altered as well. In this case, the missionization of California, fur trapping, a gold rush, lumber, railways, ranching and farming led settlers into the Mojave River watershed back in the early to mid-1800's. From that point on, the character of the Mojave River's flora and fauna was altered, and with it, so was the only habitat the Mojave tui chub (MTC) has ever known.

Mohave tui chub (Siphateles bicolor mohavensis), Zyzzx
(photo credit: Sujan M. Henkanaththegedara, 2008)

Eventually, for a variety of reasons, on October 13, 1970, the MTC was recognized by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as endanger of becoming extinct. Less than a year later, on June, 27, 1971, the MTC was also recognized by the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) as endanger of becoming extinct.

With the signing into law of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973, which mandated (1) the keeping of a continually updated list of threatened species (those that are losing population) as well as endangered species (those actually facing near-term extinction), and (2) that a recovery plan for each endangered species had to be created to help return them to a healthy population level, the Mohave tui chub had the beginnings of a legal voice. The first recovery plan was completed in 1984. In 2003, the original recovery plan was revisited and revised. The main goals of the recovery plan are two fold:
  1. "Downlisting" the MTC from endangered to threatened by establishing six self-sustaining "refugia" populations of at least 500 fish each. [In 2003, this goal was considered "feasible", and that public education and outreach is an essential component of the species recovery.]
  2. "Delisting" the MTC by establishing viable populations in a majority of the MTC's historic habitat in the Mojave River drainage. [In 2003, this goal was not considered "feasible", but if attempted, the headwaters of the Mojave River ( e.g. Holcomb Creek, East Fork of the Mojave River) would be the place to establish new populations.]
For those that are asking themselves, "What's the fuss?, Why protect and save a species from extinction?", which is a good question to ask, you might want to read this reasoned argument.

Two former students here at the AAE learned about the plight of the MTC when they participated in a "Trout in the Classroom" project in their biology course here at the AAE. The web quest project ask students to consider the impact on native species if the trout fry they had raised were released into the Mojave River. Their discovery led to a two year project (they called their "wish for a fish") which started this web site and the AAE's "local outreach" and participation in the recovery of the Mojave River's only native fish, the Mojave tui chub.

To learn more about Mohave tui chub and the restoration of their population and habitat, please follow the links at the top of the page.

The Beginning of a Wish Fulfilled...                    

On October 2nd, 2008, with the help of Steve Parmenter (CDFG) and Judy Holman (USFWS), the "wish for a fish" that two former AAE students started back in the spring of 2003, moved one step closer to its full realization. At about 4 pm, 473 Mohave tui chub from the Lark Seep refuge complex on the China Lake Naval Weapons Center were released into the Deppe Pond refugia on the Mojave River Campus of the Lewis Center for Educational Research. Five students helped release the fish into a new "refugial" home . On Monday, October 5, 2008, 75 more Mohave tui chub, all generally smaller than the fish released four days earlier, were also released into Deppe Pond. These new fish, from the Lark Seep refuge system, brings the founder population up to 548 fish.

Steve Parmenter assisting four students in the release
of 400+ Mohave tui chub into Deppe Pond

All the fish were measured before transfer and release and all were less than 101 millimeters long (about 3 inches) in total length (from snout to the end of the tail or caudal fin). They were collected from among three major habitat areas in the Lark Seep refuge, but not in equal proportions. The fish arrived in good condition and were seen vigorously feeding in the following days. A short 2 min. video documenting the release, shot by the Victor Valley Daily Press videographer, Patrick Thatcher.

To learn more about how the MTC in their new refuge home are doing visit the Lewis Center MTC Refuge link.