Humpback Chub ‘Alien Abductions’ Help Frame Future of Colorado River

“Why the frowny, eel-faced ‘trash fish' is at the heart of upcoming water rights negotiations.”

“Charismatic is hardly the best word to describe the humpback chub, a fish with a frowny eel face jammed onto a sportfish body in a way that suggests evolution has a sense of humor. Nor did tastiness build a fan base for this ‘trash fish' across its natural habitat throughout the Colorado River Basin. But, in 1973, the humpback chub became famous by winning federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Researchers in the Grand Canyon now spend weeks at a time, several times a year, monitoring humpback chub, which has become central to an ecosystem science program with implications for millions of westerners who rely on Colorado River water.

Dennis Harris, who guides an electrofishing boat for a research contractor, is part of the science crew that briefed me last year at the world's largest known humpback chub hangout, just below the confluence of the Little Colorado River with the Colorado in Arizona. He spun a yarn about what fish say upon their return to home waters—how they survived an alien abduction.”

Judy Fahys reports for InsideClimate News July 9, 2020.