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Endangered Fish Making Grand Canyon Comeback

July 21, 2009

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - First reports are promising as scientists work to re-establish an endangered fish species in the Grand Canyon. The small silvery fish, humpback chub, lived for millions of years in the Canyon, until Glen Canyon Dam cooled the water and altered the flow of the Colorado River. Combined with the introduction of non-native trout that eat baby chub, the changes have nearly wiped out the fish. But an experiment, started last month, has reintroduced some 300 young chub into warmer waters of a side creek deep within the canyon.

Brian Healy, a U.S. National Park Service fisheries biologist, says things look good so far.

"Based on our surveys, humpback chub seem to be doing very well in Shinumo Creek. Non-native trout were also captured, and of those we examined there was no evidence of predation upon humpback chub."

Scientists will check on the endangered fish species, found only in the Colorado, about twice a year, and there's already talk of moving another group of chub to the site by early next year.

Healy hopes the experiment will lead to re-establishing the fish over long stretches of the main river.

"The Shinumo translocation project may help to augment the existing population in Grand Canyon, and hopefully in the future will help to establish larger downstream populations throughout the canyon."

Healy says the chub experiment is just one part of a larger effort to help the canyon overcome the environmental effects of the Glen Canyon Dam.

"Humpback chub are an important component of the native ecosystem of Grand Canyon, and the Park's long-term goals are to re-establish those ecosystem processes and all their components."

The Glen Canyon Dam was completed in the mid-1960s, forming Lake Powell behind it, and the chub have been listed as endangered since 1967. The only other surviving chub population in the canyon lives mostly near the mouth of the Little Colorado River.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ