Friday, June 30, 2006

Endangered June suckers now raised at second hatchery

SPRINGVILLE - The recovery of the endangered June sucker got a boost June 27 when more than 3,500 June suckers, four inches in length, were placed into two ponds at the Division of Wildlife Resources' Springville State Fish Hatchery.

June suckers being placed into a pond at the Springville State Fish Hatchery
Hatchery worker Ben Giles places the first group
of June suckers into a pond at the Springville
State Fish Hatchery

Placing June suckers in the Springville hatchery doubles the number of hatcheries in Utah where the fish is being raised. Before being placed in the Springville hatchery, June suckers in Utah were raised only at the DWR's Fisheries Experiment Station in Logan.

The Springville hatchery has traditionally been a game fish hatchery, raising more than one million trout each year. The hatchery was closed in April 2005, however, after whirling disease was discovered in the hatchery.

Whirling disease affects trout, but it does not affect June suckers. The Springville hatchery is scheduled to raise trout again in the future, but in the meantime, it's being put to good use raising endangered fish.

The new additions to the once quiet facility brought some excitement and diversity. The June suckers have found their temporary home to be quite hospitable and continue to school together and swim around the two circular-shaped ponds like slower-paced participants in the Indianapolis 500.

Deer hunters from the DWR's Dedicated Hunter program cleaned and prepared the two ponds so they would be ready for the fish.

"Raising June sucker at the Springville fish hatchery is a win-win situation for several reasons," says Scott Root, regional conservation outreach manager with the DWR. "Our Fisheries Experiment Station in Logan had little room in their June sucker facility to raise these fish, so bringing the fish to the Springville hatchery creates another facility to raise an endangered fish, which is a very important part of the recovery of this species.

"Raising June suckers also allows the hatchery workers to raise fish again and one that isn't susceptible to whirling disease."

"We're excited about the opportunity to raise these endangered fish and look forward to the challenges of raising a different species from what we are typically used to," says Richard Hartman, Springville State Fish Hatchery supervisor.

"We divided the fish equally into the two ponds," Hartman says. "The fish in the north pond will be fed, while the fish in the south pond will not be fed as part of a study to evaluate the ability of the fish to live off the available algae and plankton found within the pond.

"We also fertilized both ponds prior to stocking the fish to promote a good food base of algae and plankton for them to eat."

Biologists plan to place pit tags into each fish and will monitor the fish after they're stocked into Utah Lake. Utah Lake is the only place in the world where June suckers are found in the wild.