The Humpback Chub

AZGFD-GeorgeAndrejko-Humpback8-e1476823079410

©Andrejko, George. Photo courtesy of the Arizona Game & Fish Department


Conservation Status || ENDANGERED


Brief Description

The Humpback Chub, or Gila cypha, is a minnow that was once abundant throughout the entire Colorado River Basin and parts of Wyoming and Arizona. Humpback Chubs are freshwater fish that have inhabited the Grand Canyon and Colorado River for millions of years. In 1962, the Bureau of Reclamation created Glen Canyon Dam which marked the beginning of the end for the Humpback Chub. Once completed, the dam had caused the extinction of Humpback Chubs and other native fish in Grand Canyon National Park. Despite this, due to diligent work by the Arizona Fish and Game Department, National Park Service, and Bureau of Reclamation, the Humpback Chub’s population increased before 2009. More recently, though, the population has began decreasing once again although to an unknown degree.

Humpback-Chub-population-estimates-based-on-mark-recapture-sampling-in-Shinumo-Creek

Population estimates from 2010 to 2013 from in Shinumo Creek, Arizona. This establishes a general trend for a smaller population sampling, while still being relatively accurate. Data and Graph from https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Humpback-Chub-population-estimates-based-on-mark-recapture-sampling-in-Shinumo-Creek_fig2_283090970.


Fun Facts

  • Discovered in 1946
  • Can live up to 4 decades
  • Anglers often considered them “trash fish” (Screw those guys, right?)
  • Use their lateral line to sense vibrations of insects
  • The Humpback Chub’s population was literally poisoned 445 miles by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1964 in parts of the Green River of native species that were considered “undesirable.”
  • “Trout Control” has been used controversially in an attempt to increase native fish species, such as the Humpback Chub.
  • Uses their “hump” to maintain their upright position as they swim.
  • Have their own song! Find it here.

How you can Help 

The U.S.F.S. recently decided that the Humpback Chub’s population has become stable enough to legally take them off the Endangered Species list. Historically speaking, this could be incredibly dangerous due to the amount of times Anglers and the U.S. government have tried to eradicate them. The Glen Canyon Dam has been the major cause of Humpback Chub’s decline. Because of the dam, the once muddy warm stream is now a regulated river for trout and fishing. The government, once the cause of the Humpback Chub’s downfall, is now fighting for their recovery. To support programs that are helping the Humpback Chub, see the links below.

Donation / Petition Links

Grand Canyon National Park

EarthJustice Legal Action


Additional Links

IUCN || Humpback Chub

Cool Green Science

Colorado River Recovery

Should the Humpback Chub be Saved?

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