The Hualapai tribe will benefit from a federal effort to reduce non-native fish in the Colorado River.
Fish such as trout prey upon native species like the humpback chub, which is an endangered species, according to Barry Wirth, regional public affairs officer of the Bureau of Reclamation in Salt Lake City.
The tribe will use removed trout as fertilizer during a two-year experiment as federal agencies try to reduce non-native fish in Grand Canyon National Park, which is prime habitat for the humpback chub.
Tribal vice chairwoman Carrie Imus said the ground-up fish will be used as fertilizer in the garden outside the cultural center, in residential yards and on two lots in Kingman that tribal planner Jack Ehrhardt agreed to donate for that purpose.
"That has been part of our Indian way, to use everything, to not be wasteful," Imus said.
She said tribal members grow crops such as traditional Indian corn, gourds, pumpkins and squash.
The Hualapai and other tribes came up with the idea of using the fish for fertilizer after meeting with federal agencies for at least a year, Imus said.
The tribes objected dumping ground-up fish in the river, she said.
Federal officials plan to reduce the population of trout and other non-native species along the six-mile stretch of the Colorado River near the confluence with the Little Colorado River, Wirth said.
The experiment is scheduled to begin Jan.
Crews from the U.S.
Geological Survey will use electroshock techniques to stun the fish and then remove trout and other non-native species and place them in nets, Wirth said.
He said that out of respect to tribes, which regard the river stretch as sacred, the government employees will remove the fish from the area before grinding them up for fertilizer.
"We are trying to be the least disruptive as possible," Wirth said.
The fish will be ground up and taken by raft downstream about 30 miles from Diamond Creek to Peach Springs on the Hualapai Reservation, said Steve Gloss, program manager for biological resources for the U.S.
Geological Survey in Flagstaff.
"We are probably going to do the grounding somewhere along the Grand Canyon," Gloss said.
He said the fish byproducts will be stored in 15-gallon containers.
Gloss said his agency plans to gather fish six times a year during the experiment period.
He and Wirth explained that the main purpose of the project is to safeguard the humpback chub – an endangered species – from the predatory trout, about 90 percent of which are rainbows.
The experiment should benefit the trout population upstream as well by enabling more fish to mature into adults, according to Wirth.
"If we can disrupt the trout somewhere in the Lee's Ferry stretch of the Colorado River, we will have fewer juvenile trout coming in," he said.
He described the 16-mile stretch of river below Glen Canyon Dam as being a prime trout fishery that is prized by the Arizona Department of Game and Fish and anglers.
"It's just a stretch of the river that is well-suited for trout, and it is too cold for the endangered humpback chubs," he said.