Tiny, Critically Endangered and Controversial Nevada Fish Experiences Dramatic Population Increase
By John R. Platt
First the good news:
The world’s only population of the critically endangered Moapa dace (Moapa coriacea), a tiny fish endemic to the hot springs along a small stretch of Nevada’s Muddy River, has boomed this year. After a strange and still unexplained die-off in 2007 lowered the species’ population from 1,200 to 473 fish, its numbers have climbed nearly 150 percent to 1,181 today, according to the most recent count by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Most of that increase, which comes close to recovering the species to pre-2007 levels, has taken place in the past year. It’s a welcome success story for a fish that also nearly lost its sole habitat to fire in 2010.
Now the bad news:
The Moapa dace population still needs to increase by another 4,819 individuals before the species can be considered recovered and taken off the endangered species list. Meanwhile, the fish remains unpopular with nearby residents, who complain that protecting the species limits agricultural and community water usage, keeps people from enjoying some of the area hot springs, costs too much and is taking too long—all for a fish that isn’t eaten by humans and doesn’t serve as food for any other native species…