ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., -- Survival and recruitment of the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow, an endangered species, is of utmost importance in New Mexico. This has not been an easy task in these recent times of drought. However, with the hard work and cooperation of the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program (MRGESCP), the minnow continues to survive in the Rio Grande.
During the week of July 28, 2014, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) personnel and other members of the Collaborative Program, went “down to the river,” the Rio Grande, in search of the minnow. This was the second trip to the Rio Grande since the release of water down the river in May.
“Based on research over the last six years, we have learned that silvery minnows spawn on the flood plain,” said Michael Porter, fishery biologist, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “The minnow is different in this aspect from most other fish that spawn in the river channel,” he said. In May, Porter found over 600 eggs at the Rio Grande Nature Center, while the Albuquerque Biopark salvaged over 8,000 eggs from the same site.
The team was now in search of finding young minnows to verify whether the May water release produced silvery minnows. The team found 122 silvery minnows, confirming observations by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service). The Service had also been collecting minnow samples in the river that week.
Corps team members included Michael Porter, fishery biologist; Justin Reale, aquatic ecologist; Dana Price, botanist; and Ondrea Hummel, ecologist. Other team members were Brooke Wyman, biologist, Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD), and Eric Gonzales, biologist, SWCA Environmental Consultants.
Porter and the team also looked at the entire fish community in the Rio Grande to determine their response to the monsoons and the turbidity. The team has found 15 species.
“By finding these minnows, we have determined that our work is relatively successful,” said Porter. “Through our ongoing research and planning, the team has learned that the minnow population continues to go up and down throughout the 20-year drought,” he said. “The last four years have been tough because of extremely dry conditions.”
“Gathering information this week has been critical to us in planning and our future habitat restoration projects in order to secure the silvery minnows’ place in the ecosystem,” he said.
Porter and his teammates will continue to monitor the Rio Grande this fall in search of the elusive silvery minnow.