What is a humpback chub you ask? If you have bought, worn, won, found or acquired any swag from Moab Gear Trader it could have been adorned with our beloved Humpback Chub. Since the beginning of Moab Gear Trader, the Humpback Chub has been part of the unofficial logo. This symbol known and loved throughout the Western United States is a shout out to MGT’s owners’ love for the Colorado River. What you might not have known is this feisty fish has been listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 1967. The plucky piscis has been fully protected since 1973 by the Endangered Species Act.

Another fact that we should get out of the way is the Chub is a minnow; it is not a fish. Once properly classified it jumps from a small fish to a large minnow. Although at a maximum size of about 20 inches and weighing a respectable 2.5 pounds it lacks the swimming speed, or size, of other Colorado River minnow species. However, the Humpback Chub can live up to 30 years in the wild and has genetic traits that keep it stable in turbulent water.

This minnow is not considered tasty, and was referred to as a “trash fish” by early settlers. Nor is the Chub an aesthetically pleasing fish with its bulbous head and large fins. However, these features enable it to maneuver the whitewater and shallows of the Colorado River. Its unique traits and conservation efforts have helped it to regain some of its lost numbers.

There has been steady progress in reestablishing native populations of the Humpback Chub. Currently, there are several stable populations of Gila Cypha (Humpback Chub) in the Colorado River basin. The largest population is located in the Lower Colorado River Basin near the Grand Canyon.

Why are Gila Cypha endangered/threatened?

Water syphoning for domestic use, cattle, and irrigation caused a major loss of Humpback Chub habitat. At one time poison was used to thin out the population to make room for more commercially viable fish like rainbow trout. These activities coupled with damming of the Colorado River stopped historical floods and altered whitewater areas to the point the minnow could no longer live in these places.

What do Gila Cypha eat?

Humpback Chub are an important member of the Colorado River ecosystem and help keep this system in balance by eating plants, seeds, insects, and crustaceans. It also serves as a food source for larger fish.

Is the Humpback Chub an endangered species?

The increase in numbers and conservation efforts have caused the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to consider removing the Humpback Chub from the endangered species list. The minnow would be classified as “threatened”.

The change is an indication biologists believe the species is no longer in imminent danger of extinction. To be certain, this is not a return to historical population numbers, or habitat range, when they inhabited the Green/Yampa Rivers in Colorado and Utah, and the Arizona Little Colorado River. It is a sign that the conservation efforts like removing predatory smallmouth bass are working. However, more work needs to be done to secure the future of our beloved chub.

What are your thoughts on the Humpback Chub being removed from the endangered species list and placed on the threatened species list?

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