Imperiled Utah fish bouncing back after 18 years


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — An imperiled fish found only in Utah Lake is starting to make a recovery after 18 years.

The June sucker increased in population from only 300 to 2,000 at last count, prompting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to propose changing the species status from endangered to threatened, the Deseret News reported.

The change is a major milestone, said Chris Keleher, Utah Department of Natural Resources recovery program director. It means the federal agency no longer believes the species is in immediate danger of extinction.

Still, “we will remain committed to the ultimate goal — the recovery of the June sucker,” Keleher said.

The June sucker population dropped to just 300 fish in 1999, leading to the creating of a program aimed at increasing the population through habitat management and reduction of threats.

The proposed change doesn’t mean all threats are abated, including predator fish such as carp, said Noreen Walsh, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region.

The Utah Lake Commission has previously said it wants to remove 32 million pounds of carp from the lake, and they’ve taken out more than 17 million pounds so far.

Conservation organizations also applauded the proposed change.

“The successful efforts to recover the June sucker show the Endangered Species Act is working,” said Ryan Beam, a Utah conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The proposed rule to change the fish’s classification is now available for public review and comment.