Palisade High School Endangered Fish Hatchery technicians help the local community release endangered razorback sucker into the Colorado River. Photo and story by Mikaela Oles USFWS

About Palisade High School Endangered Fish Hatchery

The Palisade High School Endangered Fish Hatchery provides students with hands-on experiential learning on a wide array of aquaculture and fisheries science techniques and topics revolving around the conservation of Upper Colorado River fishes including recirculating aquaculture, conservation of native fishes, the importance and application of The Endangered Species Act, ichthyology, fish biology, water chemistry, statistics and much more.

The project began in 2015 when Palisade High School partnered with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program to plan and create the Palisade High School Endangered Fish Hatchery. This collaboration is unique since it is one of a small handful of endangered fish hatcheries in the United States operated by high school students, and potentially the only non-salmonid endangered fish partnership of its kind.

After three years of FWS employees spawning fish to deliver to the high school, it was decided that it was time for the students to get involved from the very beginning. Palisade High School Endangered Fish Hatchery technicians took a trip to Ouray National Fish Hatchery to learn how to spawn razorbacks and had a nearly 100% survival rate.

Palisade High School Fish Hatchery Technicians Kiera Stephen and Charlotte Allen pucker up to kiss two endangered razorback sucker raised at their on-campus fish hatchery. The fish are being released into the Colorado River at Riverbank Park in Palisade, Colorado. Photo Mikaela Oles USFWS

About the Razorback Sucker

The razorback sucker is an endangered species found only in the warm-water portions of the Colorado River Basin. Three to five million years ago, this fish made its way into the river and its tributaries. It’s one of the largest sucker species in North America, growing up to 3 feet in length. In 1979, the razorback sucker was listed as endangered under Colorado law, and by 1991, it was listed as federally endangered and given full protection under the Endangered Species Act. Today, we and many partners (including Palisade High School) work together to restore self-sustaining populations through propagation and stocking.