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ABQ BioPark Celebrates 20 Years of Rio Grande Silvery Minnow Conservation

Staff from the BioPark’s Aquatic Conservation Facility released 34,000 minnows into the Rio Grande in Albuquerque on November 16, another release planned later this month

Nov. 17, 2020 – The ABQ BioPark released 34,000 tagged Rio Grande silvery minnow into the river yesterday. This release marks 20 years of the BioPark’s participation in the conservation of this species. 

The Rio Grande silvery minnow, a 2- to 4-inch long fish, was once one of the most common species in the Rio Grande, but by 1994 its population had declined so greatly that it was added to the federal Endangered Species List.

The BioPark has been part of the recovery program for the Rio Grande silvery minnow since 2000. Each spring, staff from the BioPark's Aquatic Conservation Facility collect eggs from the Rio Grande to raise in tanks at the BioPark. They also breed additional minnows from previously collected broodstock. Later, juvenile fish that are destined for release are "tagged" with a small colored mark so biologists can monitor the success of the program. Tagging also allows biologists to monitor some aspects of the minnows' behavior and how long the fish are surviving in different parts of the river.

To date, the ABQ BioPark has released more than 800,000 silvery minnows in cooperation with the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program. This year, 17,000 fish were released in Albuquerque near Central Bridge and another 17,000 were released at a site near Los Chavez, NM. Staff plan to release more fish on November 30 near Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

“The ABQ BioPark is proud of the work we’ve done to help conserve the Rio Grande silvery minnow in the past two decades,” says Kathy Lang, curator of ABQ BioPark's Aquatic Conservation Facility. “We look forward to continuing our work in the coming years and hope that one day this fish, native to our state, will once again thrive in its natural habitat.”