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Longfin Dace Fish to Return to Santa Cruz River

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The longfin dace returned to the lower Santa Cruz River last week.

The tiny fish, which rarely exceeds 2 and a half inches long, was reintroduced to the Santa Cruz River as part of a collaborative effort between the Pima County Office of Sustainability and Conservation, the Pima County Regional Flood Control District, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the University of Arizona.

The fish was stocked downstream of the Agua Nueva Water Reclamation Facility, as well as at the Heritage Waters stretch near downtown Tucson.

longfin dace reintroduction signals az

Office of Sustainability and Conservation along with Arizona Game and Fish walked within Cienega Creek to survey the fish population along a 310 foot stretch of the river.

“Before it disappeared because of a lack of water, invasive species, and other factors, the longfin dace historically made their home in the Santa Cruz River”, said Ian Murray, a conservation biologist with the Pima County Office of Sustainability and Conservation.

While the longfin dace are not considered threatened or listed as an endangered species, it is covered by Pima County’s Multi-Species Conservation Plan (MSCP). Murray said that the reintroduction of the dace is a major step toward restoring the river’s native fish fauna.

“Restoring this native species supports the MSCP and the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan’s goals of keeping our biodiversity extant,” Murray said.

The dace isn’t the first long-extirpated fish to return to the Santa Cruz River in recent years. The endangered Gila topminnow made a resurgence in the river south of Tucson since 2018 and was found downstream of the Agua Nueva facility in 2020.

The reintroduction of the fish took place Wednesday, March 23.

Catch up with the news and read more stories from the Desert Cities on Signals A!

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