WASHINGTON COUNTY, Utah - In the battle against invasive species, biologists use several different methods. Wednesday, crews in Southern Utah are using one that starts with changing the river’s color.
The dye is the first step in a chemical treatment targeting the red shiner. The small predatory fish first appeared in Utah in the 1960s, likely through it’s use as a bait fish in Lake Mead.
The Red Shiner doesn’t mix with the native species in the mix, so state biologists have been working with the local Virgin River Project for several years to eradicate it.
“We’ve been working at it a long time,” said Virgin River Project local coordinator Steve Meismer. “Many people thought we couldn’t get rid of red shiner, but we’re showing that we can.”
Wildlife crews follow the red dye downstream to get an idea how fast the river is flowing. That will help when the crews come back next week with the chemical Rotonone.
Meismer said, through those periodic treatments, they’ve been able to completely eradicate the red shiner from the area north of the state line fish barrier. Now they’re focused on the area south into Arizona. They want to provide a buffer to make sure that fish doesn’t get back upstream.
“So we’ll have some warning for these fish,” Meismer said. “They’ll have to get over two barriers before they get back up into Utah again.”
Rotonone is a natural product and Meismer said it’s safe for anyone but the fish. Biologists will monitor river flow and depending on levels, they’ll add the Rotenone to the water next week.
If all goes well, biologists will work on plans to restock those native fish in the coming years.