Update: Razorback sucker populations are increasing

The endangered fish seem to be recovering in the San Juan River.


Young razorback suckers at a Texas hatchery.


Razorback suckers, found only in the Colorado River and eight tributaries, were once abundant. But by the mid-1980s, the humpbacked fish, which can reach 13 pounds, were vanishing, their hatchlings devoured by non-native fish. In 1991, razorbacks were federally protected as endangered, but despite millions of dollars spent on recovery, the numbers continued to drop (“One tough sucker,” HCN, 7/7/10).


Thanks to habitat restoration, the number of young razorbacks in the San Juan has hit an all-time high since surveys began more than 20 years ago. Northwest New Mexico’s fall counts found 50 yearlings, and biologists say thousands more might roam that 180-mile reach.

In October, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed downlisting it to “threatened,” saying that razorbacks no longer face extinction throughout their range, partly due to hatchery-born fish. However, with climate change, drought and water demand straining Southwestern rivers, the fish are still struggling. The agency fears that the razorback has yet to “cross the final threshold” of full recovery — sustaining a population over time without human intervention.

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