The Devils Hole pupfish is among the world’s rarest fishes. The iridescent blue, inch-long fish is found only in the warm water of Devils Hole in Nye County near Death Valley National Park.
Biologists last year estimated less than 100 pupfish remained in their natural habitat.
But efforts are underway to try to establish and maintain two captive populations at the Ash Meadows Fish Conservation Facility. The Fish and Wildlife Service has earmarked $153,000 to try to bolster the captive populations and ensure the survival of the species.
“We have established a refuge population at the Ash Meadows Fish Conservation Facility,” service spokesman Dan Balduini said Friday. “We are awaiting the first generation born in that facility.
“We had eggs that biologists collected from Devils Hole … and they hatched. Now they are breeding.”
Offspring from those fish will be the first generation born from the captive population, Balduini said.
Another $736,000 will be used to remove barriers in the Warm Springs area to give Moapa dace access to their natural range and breeding habitat. Barriers were installed while biologists took steps to remove an invasive fish from the waters.
“Now that the non-native blue tilapia has been eradicated from the Warm Springs area, reconnecting migration corridors for the Moapa cade should help recovery of the dace,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said.
Moapa dace is endemic to the Muddy River, a 32-mile long aquatic ribbon northeast of Las Vegas that includes a series of thermal springs before it reaches Lake Mead.
The fish reproduces in warm temperatures ranging from about 82 degrees to 89 degrees Fahrenheit and grows to about 4 inches long.
Biologists say removal of the barriers should allow the Moapa dace to grow larger, live longer and produce more offspring.
Funding for the Nevada efforts was part of $5.8 million announced for 17 projects nationwide under the Cooperative Recovery Initiative. The program established last year is designed to restore and recover federally listed species on or near national wildlife refuges.