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Does a Species Have a Right to Exist?

Blog by: David Coulson 8/15/2015

Personally, my knee jerk reaction is yes. I recognize that geological records show that species have come and gone. Things change over time. Species come and go. However, on the whole they went extinct without help from mankind. So from my perspective, any fish species that was doing fine before humans screwed things up for them, then we probably ought to do our best to unscrew things and allow them fighting chance to continue until nature determines it’s time for them to exit right.

Efforts to prevent the extinction of species have been codified with the amended Endangered Species Act of 1973. Per the United States Fish and Wildlife Service glossary, “(the act) is intended to provide a means to conserve the ecosystems upon which endangered and threatened species depend and provide programs for the conservation of those species, thus preventing extinction of plants and animals.”

Seems simple enough, but when efforts to protect a species come into conflict with what people wish then things turn ugly in a hurry, especially, when the species in question isn’t consider having “value” to humanity.  Let’s face it, when it comes to fish, there are plenty of species that aren’t consider “valuable” and even among those that are deemed worthy, some are regarded with low esteem.  Take rainbow trout; if it’s thought they were stocked, they’re viewed as slimers, a derogatory term, never mind that almost all freshwater sport fish in America are, to some degree, managed through stocking programs.

One of the conflicts we frequently hear about pertains to the Colorado River drainage and the efforts to save the endangered native species unique to it.  Note, I said UNIQUE to it, there are a handful of species in the Colorado River drainage that do not exist anywhere else in the world.  The Colorado River drainage encompasses a large part of the southwest.  Consequently the efforts to save these endangered species have impacted many non-native sportfish species stocked in the Colorado, its tributaries, and reservoirs within the watershed. Saving fish viewed as having little value over fish thought to be great sporting fish is a bitter pill to swallow for many anglers.

What got me started down this path was this article, “Managing Non-natives to Save Colorado's Endangered Big River Fish,”  sent to me by Lloyd, Texas Fish Explorer State Editor.  It is interesting reading, briefly covering efforts and issues with saving “the four native fish species that are endangered in the upper Colorado River—the bonytail, humpback chub, Colorado pikeminnow, and razorback sucker. 

As with all topics that interest me I did a bit more research, these fish, especially the Colorado pikeminnow, weren’t always viewed with the distain they are today.  Years past these fish were an important component of people’s diet, especially during the depression years.  An article, “Historical Accounts of Upper Colorado River Basin Endangered Fish,”  is interesting reading and has a number of pictures of these fish that were harvested. I encourage you to give it a read and to follow the links I’ve provided.  The combination will give you a deeper understanding of these endangered fish.

Of the four species mentioned year, I have caught a pikeminnow. It was years back in the Grand Junction area, about 18-20 inches and I can attest to the fighting ability of this species.  When I see some of the historical pictures, I find myself really hoping they make a comeback so I can tangle with one of these bruisers down the road. I’ve not encountered any of the other endangered species, although I have caught a good number of roundtail chub and a variety of other sucker species from the river around Grand Junction, none of which impressed me for their fighting ability.

My view is these species are as valuable as any other fish.  Given they’re unique to the Colorado River drainage and don’t seem to fare well outside the river system, I fully support efforts to save them, even if that means more favored non-native sportfish have to give way.  It’s my fervent hope that someday they’ll survive well enough that they’re no longer endangered and I’ll be able to do battle with them also.

Blog content © David Coulson
Blog Comments
Raskal, 8/15/2015 10:08:32 AM
The only species I think could be done away with is black flies ... are they useless or what ?
elkinthebag, 8/15/2015 10:22:54 AM
Second to last para graph ( of the four species mentioned (year) or ( here). Pike minnows are a blast to catch. The headwaters in Colorado where always very little populated. But good spawning grounds for them. Utah has good populations of large pike minnow still.
D-Zilla, 8/15/2015 9:01:39 PM
I think we can all agree that the common mosquito can be wiped out wholesale, and slaughtered with extreme prejudice. Brings to mind a conversation I was having with someone about the viability of carp and drum as fishing targets. They have their place, not something I'll go after exclusively, as some on these forums do, but I do not mind catching them. I will admit to trying on occasion to catch some of those whale/carp hybrid fish I see cruising the local ponds, but it is NOT something I'll plan to exclusively fish for, I just make sure to add baits I think they might eat to attempt it. They may not be the most attractive fish species, but all of them have a place in the ecosystem, and far be it from humanity to wipe them out....not that in some instances we don't try REALLY hard to do just that. (I'm looking at you Las Animas river.....)
Pathway, 8/16/2015 9:32:54 AM
We wouldn't be here today if without the mass extinction 65 million years ago. Man is just a pimple on a flies ass. If we think we have a say in a universe that is 13.8 billion years old then we are deluding ourselves.
Wmdunker, 8/16/2015 12:14:56 PM
Not to pick on you Lynn, as I tend to agree, but it is also laughable if we think we know the age of the Universe, I can remember when science was "certain" it was only a little over 3 billion years old. We do tend to take ourselves a little too seriously sometimes. Enjoy your ride, it is a short one.
David Coulson (Flyrodn), 8/16/2015 12:16:43 PM
So you're saying man had no hand in the extinction of any number of species and isn't the primary cause for the near extinction of many more. Our existence may be but a pimple on the ass of time, but it's a boil on earth at this point and close to becoming festered in my view. To deny we're not having a major impact on other species and the overall health of this planet at this point of history is a major exercise in self denial in my opinion.
Pathway, 8/16/2015 12:36:37 PM
David: You did notice that I used one significant figure for the age of the universe. In science nothing is know for certain, but we do have satellites that measure the background raditation at 2 degrees kelvin and that is what is used to estimate the age. I know when we were in school it was thought that the age was about 20 billion years. These same satellites (RSS) take the temperature of the troposphere every day and are quite accurate. Dave Coulson.: We don't even know how many species inhabit the earth. We find new ones every day. Please list all the species that have been eliminated by man. It is a myth put forth by enviornmentalists. If a species becomes extinct another one comes along to fill that niche or one mutates to fill that niche. Mass extinction brings forth new species. It's all written in the geologic record. Evolution happens most quickly when new niches become available.,
David Coulson (Flyrodn), 8/16/2015 2:46:40 PM
Shall we start with the Dodo bird for one. As for listing all, that's impossible in that I agree that we don't know all the species that exist today, nor do we know how many are gone since mankind, either "naturally' sans mankind or due to mankind's assistance. If you think it's a myth mankind hasn't directly caused an extinction, you weren't paying attention in school. Granted new species are "discovered". Question: are they new, as in they came into existence after mankind, or mankind didn't notice their existence. Maybe the niches will be filled. But when a niche is destroyed as we've worked at doing on the Colorado river through dams and "invasive" species we've introduced, the species filling that niche will disappear, as is likely with the four endangered species I wrote about here. Their disappearance, if it happens, it will be the direct result of mankind's activities.
Pathway, 8/16/2015 3:59:14 PM
Wmdunker here is the latest info on the age of the universe. The largest detriment to the T&E fish on the Colorado is the planting of Tamarisk by the Army Corp of Engineers. They stablize the bank and make the river channels deep and more favorable to smallmouth bass. Let's just stock the hell out of the river with T&E and call it good. Most of the rest is just make work for F&WS and CPW employees. That is unless you want to remove all the dams and remove all the people who own land along the Colorado River. This will all be taken care of when the next ice age hits, which is in the near future and most of Grand Jct and all other river towns along the Colo River system will go away.
shiverfix, 8/17/2015 8:44:27 AM
pathway: Caribbean monk seal, passenger pigeon, carolina parakeet, and stellar sea cow off the top of my head were all hunted to extinction in north america alone.
Pathway, 8/17/2015 10:27:25 PM
Well that's seven species not hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands. Because we have a brain some of us learn from our mistakes a try to do a better job of conservation. How many species that we may not have even known about went extinct in that same time period?
David Coulson (Flyrodn), 8/18/2015 7:22:13 AM
Trust it is in the hundreds if not more. A mere one more to add to the list, the Yellowfin cutthroat, a fish native to Colorado that reached sizes over 10lbs. No more. Another sportfish done gone that none of us will ever get to enjoy thanks to man's activities. What the hell, we can always stock smallmouth right? Point is mankind is having a major impact on his environment, and not necessarily in a positive fashion, and at a high cost. Mining activities have damaged thousands of waterways and fisheries. And the hits just keep coming. We can and should do better in my opinion.
Pathway, 8/18/2015 9:34:07 AM
We are doing a better job with the use of technology and a better understanding of the environment. If you don't like mineral extraction then I suggest you give up your boat, your house, your car and anything else that make modern life possible. Life without the use of minerals and fossil fuels is short and miserable.
David Coulson (Flyrodn), 8/18/2015 9:40:19 AM
Ever visited a landfill? We dump plenty of material that doesn't need to be. Never advocated we should not do some things. I stated we can and should do a better job. Technology is a two edge sword, part of the problem, part of the solution. Ultimately, it rests on us to do a better job.
TrophySeeker, 10/1/2015 11:14:13 AM
I just caught a pike minnow around 16 inches in Rifle last week. Awesome fight compared to the smaller stocker trout I have caught while living in Colorado. I did catch a 20 inch sucker out of the same spot that put up a great fight as well.
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