Arizona Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office – formerly the Pinetop Fishery Assistance Office – was established in 1956 in Springerville, Ariz., moving to Pinetop, Ariz., in the early 1960s. In 1962, the Parker Fishery Assistance Office was established in western Arizona and the two offices were later merged to form AZFWCO. A satellite office was established in 1991 in Flagstaff, Ariz. Together, our mission is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance
fish and other aquatic organisms and their habitat in Arizona and the Southwest.
AZFWCO is part of a network of field stations located throughout the nation that works on behalf of the American people to conserve fish and aquatic resources. AZFWCO'S mission is to “work with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish and other aquatic organisms and their habitats in Arizona.” Our daily activities are driven by three primary focus areas or goals and include Aquatic Species Conservation and Management, Aquatic Habitat Conservation and Management, and Cooperation with Native American Tribes. Integral to our work are the relationships we have with our partners – other federal agencies, state and local governments, tribal governments, non-profits and private landowners all play a role in helping us to achieve conservation objectives.
What We Do
The conservation of native fish species and their habitat is a top priority for the AZFWCO. Our field stations conduct scientific study and manage native fish populations while mitigating effects of non-native species, provide technical assistance to tribes, work with conservation agencies and private landowners to restore habitat through the National Fish Passage Program and the National Fish Habitat Action Plan, and collaborate with partners to conserve migratory fishes that cross multiple jurisdictions.
Each of our stations has its own species and mission focus. The primary focus of our Flagstaff office is the conservation and recovery of native fish, such as the Humpback Chub, in the Little Colorado River and the Grand Canyon reach of the mainstem Colorado River. Our Whiteriver office, co-located at Alchesay National Fish Hatchery, primarily focuses on Apache Trout recovery and habitat restoration through the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. Our Parker office is co-located at Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge and primarily focuses on the lower Colorado River below Hoover Dam and the recovery of Razorback Sucker and Bonytail Chub.
Other southwestern native aquatic species that we work with include Loach Minnow, Gila Topminnow, Gila Trout, Desert Pupfish, Northern Mexico Gartersnakes, Colorado Pikeminnow, Desert Sucker, Sonora Sucker, Flannelmouth Sucker and Bluehead Sucker. Our recovery efforts include renovating streams and other aquatic habitats inhabited by nonnative aquatic species such as Brown Trout, Flathead Catfish, Green Sunfish, New Zealand Mudsnail, Giant Salvinia and other species that out-compete and alter habitat for native fish. Additional efforts include constructing barriers to prevent upstream migration of nonnative species, translocating native fish populations into suitable habitat, restoring fish passage fish passage
Fish passage is the ability of fish or other aquatic species to move freely throughout their life to find food, reproduce, and complete their natural migration cycles. Millions of barriers to fish passage across the country are fragmenting habitat and leading to species declines. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Fish Passage Program is working to reconnect watersheds to benefit both wildlife and people.
Learn more about fish passage to previously inaccessible habitat, water quality monitoring and monitoring fish populations. We also provide assistance to Tribes related to recreational fisheries and native fish conservation and habitat restoration.
The Apache Trout (Oncorhynchus Apache) was one of the first fish listed as endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966 and among the first to become federally protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The White Mountain Apache Tribe started early conservation actions in the 1940s and 50s by restricting fishing in waters containing native Apache Trout populations, but habitat loss and predation by non-native fish reduced the species' range from some 600 miles of mountain streams in eastern Arizona to less than 40 miles. Since then, a cooperative recovery program between AZFWCO's Whiteriver office and partners enabled the species to be downlisted to the status of threatened in 1975 and with continued efforts it may be considered recovered in the near future. Objectives for Apache Trout recovery include the establishment and maintenance of 30 self-sustaining populations and monitoring of these populations. Toward these ends, we have worked extensively with Arizona Game and Fish Department, Trout Unlimited, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the San Carlos and White Mountain Apache Tribes to develop a recovery and monitoring plan. We have worked with TU and the tribes on a Species Status Assessment on the species, recommendations on de-listing and a long-term cooperative management plan based on the results. On-the-ground efforts that we've already undertaken include inspection by our tribal partners of several existing barriers designed to keep invasive species invasive species
An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.
Learn more about invasive species out of Apache Trout habitat. They determined that three needed replacement, with construction on the first, on Big Bonito Creek, set to begin in spring 2022. We've also built up an ambitious seasonal field program that numbered nearly 20 field technicians this past season. The team, comprised of a mixture of seasonal hires, student intern hires and members of Arizona Conservation Corps, spend the majority of their working hours through the summer collecting data and non-native removals in the field. We also work with Alchesay and Williams Creek National Fish Hatcheries, White Mountain Apache Tribe, USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station and Southwestern Native Aquatic Resources Recovery Center (SNARRC) in support of Apache Trout broodstock broodstock
The reproductively mature adults in a population that breed (or spawn) and produce more individuals (offspring or progeny).
Learn more about broodstock genetic sampling, analysis, and augmentation.
Bonytail and Razorback Sucker
Bonytail Chub (Gila elegans) and Razorback Sucker (Xyrauchen texanus), native fish once abundant in the Colorado River, have both been in decline due to habitat loss and predation by nonnative fish, with endangered status assigned to Bonytail in 1980 and to Razorback in 1991. In cooperation with our state, federal, and tribal partners, our efforts are helping to reverse the decline of the species with a goal of reestablishing self-sustaining populations of both along the Colorado River to help meet down-listing and delisting criteria. From our Parker office, AZFWCO and our partners monitor numerous backwaters and marshes cut off from the mainstem of the lower Colorado River, including Oxbow, Pretty Water, Parker Dam Pond, and Office Cove Pond, where young Razorback Suckers and Bonytail find habitat favorable for survival. Cibola High Levee Pond on the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge on the Arizona-California border near Palo Verde harbors the most successful refugia for endangered Razorbacks and Bonytail on the lower Colorado River. Working here and elsewhere along the river with our partners at Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), and the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program (LCR-MSCP) we have stocked hundreds of Razorback Suckers (mean length of 341mm) from Bubbling Ponds State Hatchery into Three-mile Lake, an isolated backwater near Needles, Calif. In addition, staff coordinated with Bubbling Ponds State Hatchery and partners to stock 100 hatchery-reared Razorback Suckers into Office Cove Pond and 100 into Emerald Canyons golf course pond. Larger Razorbacks were also harvested from Beal Slough backwater and translocated into the Lower Colorado River. Also, a telemetry study was initiated in Topock Marsh, to determine what habits and conditions contribute to the higher-than-average survival rate for Razorback Sucker there in hopes that we can boost production elsewhere. We are also working on projects to address encroachment of Flathead Catfish and other invasive species into Razorback Sucker and Bonytail habitat in the Colorado River above Lake Havasu and monitor native fish populations on the lakes of the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge
The Humpback Chub (Gila Cypha), once widespread and abundant in the Colorado River and its tributaries, has been endangered since 1967 and is the focus of intensive monitoring and recovery efforts by the Service and our partners. Factors contributing to the species' decline include habitat fragmentation, lower water temperatures, and predation by nonnative fishes, reducing the native cyprinid to small, fragmented populations within the Colorado River Basin.We are involved in several projects working toward recovery and conservation of the Humpback Chub. These include monitoring population status and trends in the Little Colorado River and mainstem Colorado River in cooperation and collaboration with partners, including U.S. Geological Survey Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center (GCMRC), Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP), and Arizona Game and Fish Department. AZFWCO has also functioned as the lead in several projects to translocate more juvenile Humpback Chub from the Little Colorado River to aid in recovery by establishing a genetic refugia at the Southwestern Native Aquatic Resources and Recovery Center in Dexter, NM, supplemented annually by more larval Humpback Chub harvested from the LCR. Also, juvenile Humpback Chub are translocated from lower portions of the Little Colorado River and are moved to an area higher in the watershed known as Chute Falls. AZFWCO has also worked with the park service to translocate Chub to other Colorado River tributaries including Bright Angel, Shinumo and Havasu Creeks.
Projects and Research
Water Quality/Contaminants Testing
Water contamination can pose major problems for fish, natural habitat, and human health, not to mention seriously affect water quality. The AZFWCO staff has made water analysis and contaminations testing essential requirements of our work. We partner with USFWS Arizona Ecological Services office in collecting fish samples for contaminants testing and studies, and we conduct water quality sampling of native fish grow-out sites. Additionally, we complete monthly water quality surveys at Alamo Lake as part of a special agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Monthly water quality was also conducted in off-channel backwaters used for rearing Razorback Sucker and Bonytail. These ponds include: Three Fingers and Cibola High Levee Pond on Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, Office Cove on the Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge, and Three Mile Lake on the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge. Parameters for water quality testing include temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, specific conductance, oxidation-reduction potential, and secchi disk readings. Water samples are also collected for subsequent analysis of general chemistry and chlorophyll and pheophytin and detailed chemistry analysis.
NATIONAL FISH PASSAGE PROGRAM IN ARIZONA
AZFWCO is involved in projects across the state to reconnect fragmented aquatic habitat for native species. Recent projects include removal of a derelict fish barrier and logjam on Big Bonito Creek on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, reconnecting nearly 8 miles of in-stream habitat, and reconnecting isolated backwaters to the lower Colorado River to open up Razorback Sucker habitat in Moovalya Marsh on the Colorado River Indian Tribes Reservation.
Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program
A coordinated, comprehensive, long-term multi-agency effort, the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program (MSCP), is aimed at endangered species, particularly Razorback Sucker and Bonytail Chub, and the protection of their habitat on the lower Colorado River. The AZFWCO staff work with staff members from regional fish hatcheries, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on work-plans, partnerships, and field station agreements. Ongoing projects include telemetry studies of Bonytail in Topock Marsh and sampling and removal of Flathead Catfish in native fish habitats in the Colorado River above Lake Havasu. AZFWCO staff also participate in annual sampling of Razorback Sucker in Lake Mohave and other local waters, and harvesting of Razorback from backwaters for subsequent stocking into the Lower Colorado River.
Gila River Basin Native Fish Program
AZFWCO works with Bureau of Reclamation’s Phoenix Area Office to monitor the effectiveness of barriers on desert streams in Arizona. These barriers are to protect and conserve native desert fish by impeding upstream migration of nonnative fish species. Monitoring is conducted to insure barriers are performing as designed by sampling the fish community upstream and downstream of the barrier. Monitoring is conducted in West Fork Black River in the Salt River watershed, the Blue River in the Gila River watershed, and Spring Creek in the Verde River watershed.
Giant Salvinia Eradication
Giant Salvinia poses a gargantuan threat to the waters of Arizona. Discovered in the lower Colorado River in 1999, the invasive plant can overtake waters and reduce water quality through reduction of dissolved oxygen, which can decimate both native and sport fish populations. The actual plant biomass can even reduce the ability of boats to use invaded waters. Fortunately, control efforts were started before the plant could become too widespread. Still, diligent control is required to keep the constant threat in check. AZFWCO staff along with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation personnel conduct control efforts throughout the year, which include spraying, density surveys, and water quality measurements in association with the spraying.
Our offices in Whiteriver and Parker are co-located with US Fish and Wildlife facilities open to the public. Follow the links for visitor information.
Our office in Whiteriver is located at the Alchesay National Fish Hatchery.
Our office in Parker is located on the Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge.