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Posted: 2:58 PM- PROVO -- Utah Lake's struggling June sucker population got some serious reinforcements Monday.

State Department of Natural Resources Workers introduced the first of 43,000 hatchery-bred fish into the lake as part of the June Sucker Recovery Program, designed to pull the species back from the brink of extinction.

The June sucker, indigenous only to Utah Lake, was placed on the Endangered Species List in 1986 when its numbers fell to fewer than 1,000. Today, the population hovers at 10,000, helped by past hatchery efforts to increase the ranks, as well as efforts to eliminate carp in the lake.

But Reed Harris, recovery program director, said there is more to the effort than just adding more fish.

"We're not talking about saving fish, but saving an ecosystem," he said.

Utah Lake was once bountiful with June sucker and Bonneville Cutthroat, but years of sewage dumping in the lake and the introduction of carp altered the balance of the ecosystem and threatened to drive the June sucker to extinction.

The hatchery fish were brought down from Logan by truck in aerated tanks, from which they were transferred to a boat that dropped the 8-inch-long fish into the lake far from predators.

Harris said this is not only the largest June sucker introduction, but the fish also represent the strongest ones produced by the hatchery system to date.