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Recovery Strategy for the Copper Redhorse (Moxostoma hubbsi) in Canada

2. Recovery

2.1 Population and distribution objectives

The goal of this recovery strategy is to improve the current situation of the Copper Redhorse in order to halt the process of extinction, increase species abundance and, in the long term, bring the population to a level sufficient for the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) to reduce its status listing to threatened, of special concern, or not at risk. The population recovery goal, in order to maintain a self-perpetuating Copper Redhorse population while maintaining 90% genetic diversity, was estimated at 4000 adults (Bernatchez, 2004; Lippé et al., 2006; Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), 2007). The time frame set out to reach this goal is 20 years. Present assessment methods cannot measure directly attainment of the recovery goal. Therefore, several population and distribution objectives were determined in order to measure progress:

  • the ratio of Copper Redhorse spawners to total redhorse population, irrespective of species, should reach 3%;
  • autumn catches of Copper Redhorse young-of-the-year should constitute 3% of total juvenile redhorse catches, irrespective of species;
  • in the next few years, juveniles introduced through stocking initiatives should contribute significantly to population inventories, while those issuing from natural reproduction gradually increase;
  • the present distribution range must be maintained.

In order to reach the population objectives, three broad approaches have been identified:

  1. Conservation: legislative and administrative regulatory and management actions are required to supplement research and outreach strategies;
  2. Education and outreach: improve awareness among stakeholders of the precarious situation of the Copper Redhorse population and of the threats to its recovery;
  3. Research and monitoring: scientific research and monitoring programs to improve knowledge about the Copper Redhorse and the threats to its recovery.

2.2 Actions already completed or underway

The implementation of earlier Copper Redhorse recovery strategies has resulted in previous measures to assist in the recovery of the species (Comité d'intervention, 1995, 1999; Équipe de rétablissement du chevalier cuivré, 2005).


2.2.1 Conservation measures

2.2.1.1 Legal protection

The Copper Redhorse has been listed in Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) since 2007 and existing regulations prohibit the killing, disturbance, harassment and capture of listed wildlife species. The Copper Redhorse was also designated as a threatened species in 1999 under the Quebec Act Respecting Threatened or Vulnerable Species (R.S.Q., c. E-12.01). This status is the highest level of protection that can be granted to a species. In order to limit mortalities, under the Quebec Fishery Regulations (SORS/90-214 and SORS/2008-322), a prohibition is in place against the sport fishing capture and possession of chub and redhorse within the distribution area of the Copper Redhorse, with the exception of Lake Saint-Pierre and its archipelago, because these fish resemble the Copper Redhorse and it is difficult for fishermen to distinguish between them.

All commercial fishermen must release any Copper and River Redhorse incidentally caught, and the use of any species of redhorse as bait is prohibited. A ban on bait fishing has been in place since April 1, 2008 in the Richelieu River, downstream from the Chambly basin, in order to protect Copper Redhorse juveniles. Furthermore, the Fisheries Act protects Copper Redhorse habitat by prohibiting any activity resulting in the disturbance, deterioration or destruction of the habitat, unless an authorization is granted by the Minister.

The Act Respecting the Conservation and Development of Wildlife (R.S.Q. C-61.1, r.46) provides legal protection to the Pierre-Étienne-Fortin Wildlife Preserve in the Chambly rapids against possible physical, chemical or biological alterations of the habitat and prohibits all activity during the Copper Redhorse spawning and egg-incubation period, i.e., from June 20 to July 20, in areas used for that purpose. The Act also provides for fish habitat protection through the development of wildlife habitat plans that establish the norms and conditions regulating any actions undertaken in the environment (Chapter IV.1).

2.2.1.2 Construction and operation of the Vianney-Legendre fish ladder

Since the late 1960s, the unrestricted passage of Copper Redhorse and other fish species was seriously compromised by improvements made to the Saint-Ours dam, which did not have a fish ladder as it did previously (Dumont et al., 1997). In the spring of 2001, a multi-species fish ladder was put into operation with the logistical and financial participation of several partners.Footnote 12 The structure is operated by Parks Canada which oversees the Saint-Ours Canal and Dam historic site. The operating permit for the fish ladder, issued by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, required that a testing period be devoted to committee supervisedFootnote 13 experimenting and comparison of various fish pass and dam shutter operational procedures in order to identify the optimal means of providing unrestricted passage to Copper Redhorse and other targeted species, such as Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens), American Shad (Alosa sapidissima), American Eel (Anguilla rostrata) and River Redhorse (Moxostoma carinatum). Results have been very encouraging: Copper Redhorse do make use of the fish ladder, though they remain quite rare (Fleury and Desrochers, 2003; Fleury and Desrochers, 2004; Fleury and Desrochers, 2005; Fleury and Desrochers, 2006).

2.2.1.3 Implementation of the Pierre-Étienne-Fortin Wildlife Preserve

The Pierre-Étienne-Fortin Wildlife Refuge was inaugurated in October 2002 and was named after the naturalist who first described a Copper Redhorse specimen in a scientific journal in 1866. The wildlife preserve in the Chambly rapids aims to preserve the integrity of the more important of the only two known spawning grounds, to ensure that spawners are not disturbed during the period of reproduction and to protect eggs during incubation. The refuge was created with the collaborative efforts of Hydro-Québec, the MNRF, the municipalities of Richelieu and Chambly, and the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). The latter has been granted ownership of a 15 km section of the river bed upstream of the refuge and is active in conservation of aquatic habitats and in outreach programs in the preserve.

2.2.1.4 Protection of the Île Jeannotte and Île aux Cerfs

In order to ensure long-term protection of the île Jeannotte and Île aux Cerfs, in the Richelieu River, the NCC was granted ownership of the islands in December 2006 and February 2009. Ownership of the Île aux Cerfs was later transferred to Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec (MRNF). This provides protection to sites particularly favorable to the growth of the Copper Redhorse. The banks of the islands are essentially the only ones in this section of the Richelieu River which have not been disturbed by development. In 2010, an outreach project around the islands was organised by NCC and the Comité de concertation et de valorisation du basin versant de la rivière Richelieu (COVABAR). Buoys and two platforms were installed to raise awareness among boaters of the presence of this important habitat for juveniles. Awareness events were carried out during the summer to inform boaters on wildlife habitats and sustainable navigation.

2.2.1.5 Artificial reproduction, breeding and stocking

In 2004, an artificial reproduction plan was implemented to counter the low rate of natural reproduction. From 2004 to 2009, close to three million larvae and 140,000 juveniles were released into the nursery areas of the Richelieu River. Spawners are captured at the Vianney-Legendre fish ladder. The objective of the plan is to rebuild the reproductive stock by preserving at least 90% of the initial genetic diversity of the population over a period of 100 years (Bernatchez, 2004). Nine ponds were created by the MNRF specifically for rearing Copper Redhorse at the Baldwin Provincial Fish Culture Station. Artificial reproduction is carried out by the MRNF at Parks Canada facilities, with the support of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) since 2009.

2.2.1.6 Actions undertaken within the environment

The agro-environmental advisory club Conseilsol has been granted funding from the Fondation de la faune du Québec's program “Development of biodiversity in watercourses in agricultural areas,” in collaboration with the Union des producteurs agricoles, to undertake restoration and bank stabilization projects on the Ruisseau Richer. This tributary has an impact on water quality of the nursery areas in the Richelieu River. This club has joined with the COVABAR to plan and carry out remedial actions in agricultural areas and to work with farmers to implement changes in agricultural practices.

Since 2006, the NCC has helped in the restoration and characterization of the banks of the Richelieu River, upstream of the Pierre-Étienne-Fortin Wildlife Refuge and in the vicinity of the Île Jeannotte and Île aux Cerfs. Several bank stabilization and restoration projects were completed in the Rivière des Hurons, Rivière L’Acadie and Beloeil River, which are tributaries of the Richelieu River considered in need of priority remedial action, from 2006 to 2010, by COVABAR in collaboration with Agriculture and Agri-food Canada. The Rivière des Hurons – the most polluted river in Quebec – was targeted because of the proximity of its outflow with the main spawning area for Copper Redhorse and other threatened species. These works were carried out with the assistance of funding from the Interdepartmental Recovery Fund and several other partners. The Eco-Nature organization has implemented a bank characterization program along the Rivière des Mille Îles in order to provide a comprehensive description of the state of the river banks and to propose remedial action. Since 2007, approximately 180 properties (private and municipal) have been assessed. Property owners receive a Riverside Package encouraging them to restore the banks through revegetation and the signing of honor-based conservation agreements. This is part of the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk (HSP).


2.2.2 Outreach and public education

2.2.2.1 Educational tools about the Copper Redhorse

Pamphlets on the Copper Redhorse were published to educate and inform the general public about the precarious status of the species, to propose remedial action, to describe the importance of the Richelieu River, and to publicize the creation and role of the Pierre-Étienne-Fortin Wildlife Preserve. One pamphlet was produced by COVABAR, while another, with a more detailed description of the wildlife refuge, was published by the NCC in collaboration with the MRNF, the Parks Canada Agency, the HSP and Projet Rescousse. The Lake St. Pierre PIZ committee produced identification and educational guides on several species at risk, including the Copper Redhorse, targeted at various groups (e.g. anglers and commercial fishermen). Eight information panels were placed at strategic sites around the lake (launching ramps). The species was also the subject of numerous articles in newspapers and journals and was featured in television and radio reports and also some theatrical presentations.

2.2.2.2 Projet Rescousse

Projet Rescousse is a non-profit organization with two objectives: to raise funds for the protection of threatened species, and to improve public awareness of this environmental issue. In December 1998, Projet Rescousse launched a micro-brewery beer on the market, the Rescousse. Some of the profits from sales are given to the Faune en danger programme of the Fondation de la faune du Québec, in order to support projects on threatened species in Quebec. The Copper Redhorse is presently considered the standard-bearer of threatened species in Quebec and the Rescousse, which serves as an excellent communications vehicle throughout the media, has contributed to promoting the species’ image among the public. Projet Rescousse was also one of the financial partners involved with the Vianney-Legendre fish ladder in Saint-Ours.

2.2.2.3 The Rivière des Mille Îles

With the help of the HSP, Eco-Nature, a non-profit environmental organization, began a public awareness program specifically targeting property-owners along the river bank. The program included interpretive sign postings, lectures and educational material and was primarily aimed at habitat conservation and improving awareness of the status of the Copper Redhorse. Collaborative efforts of several agencies, including Eco-Nature and MRNF, led to the creation of the Mille-Îles River Wildlife Preserve. This preserve, protected in 1998, is made of ten islands totalling 26.2 hectares of private land, property of the cities of Laval and Rosemère and of Eco-Nature. The latter manages the site.

2.2.2.4 Protection of the Pierre-Étienne-Fortin Wildlife Preserve

The COVABAR, in collaboration with the MRNF and other partners, undertook a warden service project in the Pierre-Étienne-Fortin Wildlife Preserve. The objective of the project was to preserve the more important of the only two known Copper Redhorse spawning grounds and of the species’ habitat. This extremely rich, natural site is very popular for recreation in the summer months (swimmers, kayakers, jet-ski users, sport fishermen).

The presence of awareness officers patrolling the sector during the summers of 2006, and from 2008 to 2010, especially during the spawning periods of the species in the area, ensured that wildlife preserve and sports fishing regulations were followed, improved awareness among the public, and permitted the completion of a creel survey. This awareness project was made possible with funding by the HSP, Environment Canada, and the Fondation de la faune du Québec.

2.2.2.5 The “Discover the Journey of the Copper Redhorse” Project

Five interpretive panels describing the Copper Redhorse were designed. This project is the result of close collaboration between the NCC, the COVABAR and the MRNF with the support of several partners including Hydro-Québec. Placed at strategic locations along the Richelieu River, these bilingual panels offer descriptions of the Copper Redhorse and its habitat, threats to its survival, recovery initiatives undertaken, and suggestions for further concrete actions to assist in its conservation.

2.2.2.6 Interpretation program and activities at the Vianney-Legendre fish ladder

In the summer of 2010, COVABAR began a pilot project offering interpretation activities at the Vianney-Legendre fish ladder in the Saint-Ours Canal National Historic Site. The goal of the project was to increase public awareness by providing information related to the Richelieu River watershed and the various fish species that use the fish ladder, particularly the Copper Redhorse.

This project provided an opportunity to pursue the outreach initiatives targeting riverside landowners and users and to develop a program of organized interpretation activities which may be continued in the coming years.


2.2.3 Research and monitoring

2.2.3.1 Juvenile identification guide

Given the difficulties in identifying juvenile redhorse of the five species present in Quebec, a bilingual dichotomous key for juveniles 35 mm and over was designed in 2003 (Vachon, 2003a). Work has also been completed on descriptions of smaller specimens, most notably through comparative evaluations of the osteological development of the redhorse’s tail (Grünbaum et al., 2003).

2.2.3.2 Genetic analyses

To date, DNA analysis is the only reliable method of distinguishing larvae (25 mm and under) because identification based on external morphological characteristics has proved inconclusive. Analytical methods have been refined, and the genetic characterization of the population, along with an evaluation of genetic heterogeneity, has been carried out (Lippé et al., 2004, 2006). This work has provided the information necessary to design a reproduction strategy. Besides the genetic characterization of all captured specimens and of spawners used for artificial reproduction, a marking study was carried out in 2007 and parental assignment analyses have been conducted on the tissue of captured juveniles in order to determine their natural or artificial origin and add to present knowledge of the survival of juveniles introduced into natural environments. Overall, the ratio of Copper Redhorse born from artificial and natural reproduction is of 9:1 (Vachon, 2010). This monitoring allows measuring the efficiency of protection and recovery activities.

2.2.3.3 Annual monitoring of fish recruitment

A protocol for the monitoring of redhorse young-of-the-year recruitment in the Richelieu River was designed and implemented on an almost yearly basis. The objective of this project is to develop a performance index to evaluate present and future conservation and support measures. Using seine nets, fish were captured at 40 stations during the fall, between 1998 and 2009. As of 2008, this work was extended to include the Saint-Ours sector in Sorel. Certain preliminary tendencies have been detected in population abundance, young-of-the-year growth and the climatic and hydrological conditions (Vachon, 1999b, 2002, 2007). These efforts, combined with genetic analyses, have also confirmed the short-term survival of juvenile Copper Redhorse introduced into the environment as part of the stocking program and have added to knowledge about older juveniles.

2.2.3.4 Telemetric tracking

As a first step, telemetric tracking has proven to be the best tool to locate habitats used by Copper Redhorse in the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries. The following step was to provide a thorough description of the habitat characteristics, to identify and quantify critical areas within the distribution range which may be used by adults of the species (spawning grounds, feeding grounds, migration corridors). Appropriate conservation measures can then be developed, along with management strategies to maximize protection of Copper Redhorse habitat. Phase I of the telemetric tracking project produced improved methods of tagging fish, while subsequent phases provided information on Copper Redhorse distribution, movements and preferred habitat. Telemetric tracking has revealed that the distribution range of the species is much broader than was initially believed, based on captured specimens. Telemetry was also used to identify the environmental variables involved in habitat selection and to build a multivariate habitat model. This model was used to produce maps indicating the probability of species’ presence during the spring, summer and fall periods (Comité ZIP des Seigneuries, 2006; Hatin, MRNF, unpublished data). This information was subsequently used to identify critical habitat for adult Copper Redhorse in the St. Lawrence River (DFO, 2010a).

2.2.3.5 Monitoring incidental catches in commercial fisheries and angling

In 1998, the collaboration of a commercial fisherman operating in the Lavaltrie-Contrecoeur sector of the St. Lawrence River provided evidence of a significant concentration of adult Copper Redhorse in the area. Since then, the collaboration has been ongoing and the MRNF has overseen an annual monitoring of incidental catches in his fishing gear from April to November.

This monitoring program collates the following information: date, type of fishing gear, site, total length, presence of nuptial tubercles and external anomalies, state of health at point of release, and other pertinent information (stage of sexual maturity, distinctive colorings, etc.). When possible, sex is determined by abdominal pressure, presence of nuptial tubercles, and the angle formed by the pelvic fins. A microchip is implanted in each fish released to permit future identification. The discovery of this group has provided considerable new information on the species.

In 2009, the PIZ committee began coordinating a project to evaluate the impacts of commercial and sport fishing in Lake Saint-Pierre. The goal of the project is to improve awareness among fishermen of the precarious state of the Copper Redhorse and to verify the scale of incidental catches. The project uses several approaches including education of fishermen, training of personnel, and establishment of an emergency phone line.

2.3 Recovery objectives

To reach the target of 4000 mature individuals and to achieve the population and distribution objectives, five recovery objectives are proposed:

Objective 1. Improve habitat conditions necessary for all stages of the life cycle and for the survival and recovery of the Copper Redhorse by:

  1. protecting known key habitat zones and creation of supplementary habitat;
  2. improving water quality and habitat, in the Richelieu and St. Lawrence rivers watersheds, to ensure conditions suitable for normal reproduction and growth;
  3. maintaining connectivity between habitats used for the different stages of the life cycle.

Objective 2. Support the Copper Redhorse population through stocking until natural reproduction can ensure the long-term stability of the population.

Objective 3. Promote further research into the sub-adult component of the population (100–500 mm) to fill the gaps in our current knowledge of this stage of the Copper Redhorse life cycle.

Objective 4. Reduce the impact of anthropogenic pressures on the Copper Redhorse and its habitat.

Objective 5. Implement regular monitoring of the state of the population.

The following table includes measures aimed at providing strategic orientation to recovery actions implemented by DFO and all partners interested in the recovery of the Copper Redhorse

2.4 Recommended strategies to meet recovery objectives

2.4.1 Recovery planning

 

Table 2. Recovery Planning: recovery strategies to mitigate the impact of threats are suggested for each recovery objective

Objective 1. Improve habitat conditions necessary for all stages of the life cycle and for the survival and recovery of the Copper Redhorse.

Objective 1a. Protection of known key habitat zones and creation of supplementary habitat
Priority of measures (Beneficial, Necessary, Essential)ApproachThreats addressedRecovery strategiesMeasures
EssentialConservationDamEnsure optimal operation of the Vianney-Legendre fish ladderMaintain and adapt if needed optimal long-term operational conditions for the Vianney-Legendre fish ladder.
EssentialConservationDegradation of habitat, water levelsMaintain physical and hydrological integrity of the known spawning grounds.Ensure suitable management of the Saint-Ours dam during the migration, spawning and incubation period of Copper Redhorse.
EssentialConservationDegradation of habitat, water levelsMaintain physical and hydrological integrity of the known spawning grounds.Implement specific measures within the protocols governing the evaluation and monitoring of activities conducted in riparian and aquatic environments in order to maintain physical and hydrological integrity of the Chambly spawning grounds.
EssentialConservationDegradation of habitatAcquire or provide legal protection for sites suitable for reproduction, feeding, rearing and growth of the Copper Redhorse.Review and amend the limits and rules of the Pierre-Étienne-Fortin Wildlife Refuge (periods of access and activities prohibited).
EssentialConservationDegradation of habitatAcquire or provide legal protection for sites suitable for reproduction, feeding, rearing and growth of the Copper Redhorse.Provide legal protection for Île Hervieux (Lavaltrie)
EssentialConservationDegradation of habitatAcquire or provide legal protection for sites suitable for reproduction, feeding, rearing and growth of the Copper Redhorse.Consolidate protection of Île Jeannotte and Île aux Cerfs through the creation of a wildlife refuge.
NecessaryConservationHabitat degradationProtect key habitat, particularly grass beds, from degradation due to dredging and dumping of dredged materials.Implement specific measures within the protocols governing the evaluation and monitoring in order to prevent the dredging and the dumping of dredging debris in the grass beds of the St. Lawrence River corridor and of the Richelieu River.
NecessaryConservationWater levelsMaintain St. Lawrence water levels and flows regulation to comply with habitat requirements of the Copper Redhorse.Promote including suitable water levels in the grass beds of the St. Lawrence, offering appropriate habitat conditions to the Copper Redhorse, in the water level management criteria, to the International Joint Commission.
NecessaryConservationHabitat degradationSlow the process of the hardening of banks and restore riparian environments.Promote the uniform implementation of the Protection Policy for Lakeshores, Riverbanks, Littoral Zones and Floodplains throughout the MRCs located within the Copper Redhorse distribution range.
NecessaryConservationHabitat degradationSlow the process of the hardening of banks and restore riparian environments.Evaluate the regulations in place in the riverside municipalities to regulate bank stabilization and construction of retaining walls and which are derived from the Protection Policy for Lakeshores, Riverbanks, Littoral Zones and Floodplains.
NecessaryConservationHabitat degradationSlow the process of the hardening of banks and restore riparian environments.Implement specific measures within the protocols governing the evaluation and monitoring of activities conducted in riparian and aquatic environments in order to prevent the hardening of banks.
NecessaryConservationHabitat degradationSlow the process of the hardening of banks and restore riparian environments.Develop a mechanism that provides expert advice on vegetation stabilization.
NecessaryConservationHabitat degradationSlow the process of the hardening of banks and restore riparian environments.Develop a bank restoration plan covering the Copper Redhorse distribution range, with priority accorded to: the Richelieu River, the confluence of the Rivière des Prairies and Rivière des Mille Îles and the Varennes-Boucherville reach of the St. Lawrence River.
NecessaryOutreach and educationHabitat degradationImprove awareness, among riverbank landowners, farmers and municipalities, of the negative impacts of hardening of banks and promote restoration of riparian strips.Launch awareness programs. Identify target audience and evaluate effectiveness of awareness campaigns in modifying and maintaining behaviors.
NecessaryOutreach and educationHabitat degradationImprove awareness, among riverbank landowners, farmers and municipalities, of the negative impacts of hardening of banks and promote restoration of riparian strips.Promote 10 to 15 m wide riparian zone restoration within the distribution range of the species.
BeneficialResearch and monitoringHabitat degradationDevelop a monitoring approach for aquatic habitats in the Copper Redhorse's distribution area.Implement regular monitoring of the grass beds of the St Lawrence River corridor and improve aquatic vegetation models.
BeneficialResearch and monitoringHabitat degradationDevelop a monitoring approach for aquatic habitats in the Copper Redhorse's distribution area.Quantify and qualify aquatic habitats of the Yamaska and Noire rivers in order to evaluate the possibility of rehabilitating the Copper Redhorse population in these rivers.
BeneficialConservationHabitat degradationCreate new suitable habitat within the Copper Redhorse's distribution area.Restore aquatic habitats suitable for various life stages of the species.

These recovery strategies are grouped according to the corresponding approach (conservation, education, research) and are further described in the “measures” column. The recovery strategies are prioritized:beneficial: would aid in the recovery; necessary: of high value for recovery; essential: indispensable for recovery.

 

Table 2 (continued). Recovery Planning: recovery strategies to mitigate the impact of threats are suggested for each recovery objective

Objective 1. Improve habitat conditions necessary for all stages of the life cycle and for the survival and recovery of the Copper Redhorse.

Objective 1b. Improvement of water quality and habitat, in the Richelieu and St. Lawrence rivers watersheds, to ensure conditions suitable for normal reproduction and growth
Priority of measures (Beneficial, Necessary, Essential)ApproachThreats addressedRecovery strategiesMeasures
EssentialConservationHabitat degradation, ContaminantsReduce the input of nutrients and of pesticides from agricultural activities into streams within the Copper Redhorse’s distribution area.Modify agricultural practices in order to reduce the input of nutrients and of pesticides into watercourses.
EssentialConservationHabitat degradation, ContaminantsReduce the input of nutrients and of pesticides from agricultural activities into streams within the Copper Redhorse’s distribution area.Establish riparian strips that can significantly filter nutrients and pesticides coming from agricultural activities.
EssentialConservationHabitat degradation, ContaminantsReduce the input into water courses of organic matter and contaminants from waste waters within the Copper Redhorse’s distribution area.Increase performance of municipal waste water treatments in order to reduce outputs of organic matter and contaminants and to ensure the outflow of treated water at all times and in any circumstances.
EssentialConservationHabitat degradation, ContaminantsReduce the input into water courses of organic matter and contaminants from waste waters within the Copper Redhorse’s distribution area.Reduce the outputs of hormones disruptors in municipal effluents, in particular in the Montreal agglomeration effluent.
EssentialConservationHabitat degradation, ContaminantsReduce the input into water courses of organic matter and contaminants from waste waters within the Copper Redhorse’s distribution area.Apply regulations on autonomous wastewater treatments.
NecessaryResearch and monitoringHabitat degradation, ContaminantsRegularly monitor water quality as well as pesticides and contaminants concentrations in the Copper Redhorse’s habitat.Continue monitoring of water quality, pesticides and contaminants in the Richelieu and St. Lawrence rivers.
NecessaryResearch and monitoringContaminantsMonitor the evolution, over time, of the estrogenicity of water and assess exposure to hormone disruptors.Diagnose the possible role of hormone disruptors in the difficulties facing Copper Redhorse reproduction (feminization, hermaphrodism, etc.)
BeneficialOutreach and educationHabitat degradation, ContaminantsIncrease awareness among farmers of the situation of the Copper Redhorse and of the impact of agricultural pollution on the species.Encourage farmers to reduce erosion in the Richelieu and St. Lawrence River watersheds.
BeneficialOutreach and educationHabitat degradation, ContaminantsIncrease awareness among farmers of the situation of the Copper Redhorse and of the impact of agricultural pollution on the species.Encourage farmers to reduce the use of pesticides.
BeneficialOutreach and educationHabitat degradation, ContaminantsIncrease awareness among municipalities, industries and riverside landowners of the impact of wastewater pollution on the Copper Redhorse and its habitat.Encourage municipalities to treat wastewater so as to efficiently reduce the levels of contaminants, particularly hormone disruptors, and organic matter in wastewater.

These recovery strategies are grouped according to the corresponding approach (conservation, education, research) and are further described in the “measures” column. The recovery strategies are prioritized:beneficial: would aid in the recovery; necessary: of high value for recovery; essential: indispensable for recovery.

 

Table 2 (continued). Recovery Planning: recovery strategies to mitigate the impact of threats are suggested for each recovery objective

Objective 1. Improve habitat conditions necessary for all stages of the life cycle and for the survival and recovery of the Copper Redhorse.

Objective 1c. Maintain connectivity between habitats used by the different stages of the life cycle
Priority of measures (Beneficial, Necessary, Essential)ApproachThreats addressedRecovery strategiesMeasures
EssentialConservationDamsEnsure that future proposed and authorized development projects will not obstruct Copper Redhorse migration.Implement specific measures within the protocols governing the evaluation and monitoring of activities conducted in riparian and aquatic environments in order to prevent any obstruction to migration.

These recovery strategies are grouped according to the corresponding approach (conservation, education, research) and are further described in the “measures” column. The recovery strategies are prioritized:beneficial: would aid in the recovery; necessary: of high value for recovery; essential: indispensable for recovery.

 

Table 2 (continued). Recovery Planning: recovery strategies to mitigate the impact of threats are suggested for each recovery objective

Objective 2. Support the Copper Redhorse population through stocking until natural reproduction can ensure the long-term stability of the population.
Priority of measures (Beneficial, Necessary, Essential)ApproachThreats addressedRecovery strategiesMeasures
EssentialConservationAllImplement the reproduction strategy.Assess the implementation of the 2004-2009 reproduction strategy and its results.
EssentialConservationAllImplement the reproduction strategy.Assess the plan’s success after ten years and put forward recommendations for continuing the reproduction strategy or to amend it.
EssentialResearch and monitoringAllOptimize performance of the artificial reproduction plan.Draft and update a report on Copper Redhorse artificial reproduction and rearing techniques.
EssentialResearch and monitoringAllOptimize performance of the artificial reproduction plan.Develop an extender specifically designed to preserve Copper Redhorse sperm.
EssentialResearch and monitoringAllOptimize performance of the artificial reproduction plan.Evaluate other potential introduction sites that offer suitable conditions for the Copper Redhorse.
EssentialResearch and monitoringAllOptimize performance of the artificial reproduction plan.Develop an index to assess the contribution of spawners to the artificial reproduction plan since the beginning of operations.
EssentialResearch and monitoringAllOptimize performance of the artificial reproduction plan.Carry out genetic characterizations and parental assignment analyses of all spawners used for artificial reproduction.

These recovery strategies are grouped according to the corresponding approach (conservation, education, research) and are further described in the “measures” column. The recovery strategies are prioritized:beneficial: would aid in the recovery; necessary: of high value for recovery; essential: indispensable for recovery.

 

Table 2 (continued). Recovery Planning: recovery strategies to mitigate the impact of threats are suggested for each recovery objective

Objective 3. Promote further research into the sub-adult component of the population (100–500 mm) to fill the gaps in our current knowledge of this stage of the Copper Redhorse life cycle.
Priority of measures (Beneficial, Necessary, Essential)ApproachThreats addressedRecovery strategiesMeasures
NecessaryResearch and monitoringAllAssess sub-adult component of the population and its habitat.Develop and implement a sampling method for sub-adult Copper Redhorse.
NecessaryResearch and monitoringAllAssess sub-adult component of the population and its habitat.Research, identify, characterize and protect habitat of sub-adult Copper Redhorse.

These recovery strategies are grouped according to the corresponding approach (conservation, education, research) and are further described in the “measures” column. The recovery strategies are prioritized:beneficial: would aid in the recovery; necessary: of high value for recovery; essential: indispensable for recovery.

 

Table 2 (continued). Recovery Planning: recovery strategies to mitigate the impact of threats are suggested for each recovery objective

Objective 4. Reduce the impact of anthropogenic pressures on the Copper Redhorse and its habitat.
Priority of measures (Beneficial, Necessary, Essential)ApproachThreats addressedRecovery strategiesMeasures
EssentialConservationRecreational activities, fisheriesReinforce surveillance of key habitatsIncrease surveillance and enforcement actions in the Pierre-Étienne-Fortin Wildlife Preserve, during spawning and incubation, particularly during peak pleasure boating periods.
EssentialConservationRecreational activities, fisheriesReinforce surveillance of key habitatsImprove signposting of boundaries and regulations of the Pierre-Étienne-Fortin Wildlife Preserve.
BeneficialOutreach and educationRecreational activities, fisheriesEducate the public about the impact of human activities on Copper Redhorse conservationIdentify target audience.
BeneficialOutreach and educationRecreational activities, fisheriesEducate the public about the impact of human activities on Copper Redhorse conservationBring about lasting changes in public attitudes and behavior through efficient awareness campaigns on disturbance, trampling of spawning grounds, incidental catch and pleasure boating.
BeneficialOutreach and educationRecreational activities, fisheriesEducate the public about the impact of human activities on Copper Redhorse conservationPursue awareness initiative in the Pierre-Étienne-Fortin Wildlife Refuge and the Île Jeannotte and Île aux Cerfs sector.
BeneficialOutreach and educationRecreational activities, fisheriesEducate the public about the impact of human activities on Copper Redhorse conservationImprove public awareness of Richelieu River ecosystem and of the Vianney-Legendre fish ladder at the Saint-Ours Canal national historic site with the building of an interpretation centre and laboratories.
BeneficialConservationFisheriesLessen the impact of the commercial fishery and ichthyological inventories.Prioritize the buy-back of commercial gillnet and fyke net fishing licenses in the St. Lawrence River.
BeneficialConservationFisheriesLessen the impact of the commercial fishery and ichthyological inventories.Continue the evaluation of mortalities caused by incidental catches of Copper Redhorse by commercial fisheries.
BeneficialConservationFisheriesLessen the impact of the commercial fishery and ichthyological inventories.Reduce incidence of Copper Redhorse mortalities during inventories and scientific research.
BeneficialConservationFisheriesLessen the impact of the commercial fishery and ichthyological inventories.Provide adequate training for people working within Copper Redhorse habitat (e.g.: wildlife officers, commercial fishermen and environmental consulting personnel) so that they are able to identify Copper Redhorse specimens.
BeneficialConservationFisheriesLessen the impact of sports fishing.Modify sports fishing regulations in order to expand the prohibition to capture and possess redhorse and chub throughout the species’ distribution range, including Lake Saint-Pierre and its archipelago.
BeneficialConservationFisheriesLessen the impact of sports fishing.Continue raising awareness of anglers on releasing Copper Redhorse if captured.

These recovery strategies are grouped according to the corresponding approach (conservation, education, research) and are further described in the “measures” column. The recovery strategies are prioritized:beneficial: would aid in the recovery; necessary: of high value for recovery; essential: indispensable for recovery.

 

Table 2 (continued). Recovery Planning: recovery strategies to mitigate the impact of threats are suggested for each recovery objective

Objective 5. Implement regular monitoring of the state of the population
Priority of measures (Beneficial, Necessary, Essential)ApproachThreats addressedRecovery strategiesMeasures
EssentialResearch and monitoringAllMonitor Copper Redhorse population in the Richelieu River.Implement annual monitoring of recruitment of juvenile redhorse in the Richelieu River.
EssentialResearch and monitoringAllMonitor Copper Redhorse population in the Richelieu River.Carry out genetic characterizations and parental assignment analyses of all Copper Redhorse collected during sampling in the distribution area of the species.
EssentialResearch and monitoringAllMonitor Copper Redhorse population in the Richelieu River.Assess the success of natural reproduction in the Richelieu River through genetic characterization.
NecessaryResearch and monitoringAllDevelop a method to determine number of spawners.Develop and implement a validated methodology for counting spawners from data collected during implementation of the reproduction plan.
BeneficialResearch and monitoringAllIdentify and validate new spawning grounds.Verify presence of reproduction in various potential spawning grounds.

These recovery strategies are grouped according to the corresponding approach (conservation, education, research) and are further described in the “measures” column. The recovery strategies are prioritized:beneficial: would aid in the recovery; necessary: of high value for recovery; essential: indispensable for recovery.

2.4.2 Narrative to support recovery planning table

The first recovery objective aims at protecting Copper Redhorse habitat by maintaining existing habitats through conservation measures (legal protection, management policies) and awareness campaigns (protection of river banks), and also by improving water quality, which is vital to the survival of the species. The second and third objectives aim at increasing Copper Redhorse recruitment by maintaining and improving the artificial reproduction plan and adding to the knowledge of the little-known sub-adult component of the population (100–500 mm). This will, in turn, permit the development of appropriate management and protection measures. The fourth objective will implement measures to reduce the impacts from pressures exerted by anthropogenic activities. Approaches proposed to attain this objective include education of fishermen and surveillance to limit disturbances caused by recreational boaters. The final objective, the monitoring of the population, is necessary in order to validate and improve current recovery efforts and to add to the limited knowledge of this species.

2.5 Critical habitat

2.5.1 Identification of critical habitat for the species

Critical habitat is defined in the Species at Risk Act (2002) section 2(1) as:

“…the habitat that is necessary for the survival or recovery of a listed wildlife species and that is identified as the species’ critical habitat in a recovery strategy or in an action plan for the species.” [s. 2(1)]

SARA defines habitat for aquatic species at risk as:

“… spawning grounds and nursery, rearing, food supply, migration and any other areas on which aquatic species depend directly or indirectly in order to carry out their life processes, or areas where aquatic species formerly occurred and have the potential to be reintroduced.” [s. 2(1)]

Critical habitat for the Copper Redhorse has been identified to the extent possible, based on the best available information. This critical habitat consists of aquatic grass beds in the St. Lawrence River, the littoral zone of the Richelieu River and the rapids below the Saint-Ours and Chambly dams (Figures 4 to 9). The grass beds provide rearing and feeding habitats while the rapids are used as spawning grounds. Critical habitat identified in the littoral zone of the Richelieu River is used for rearing and by adults to migrate to the spawning grounds. The critical habitat identified in the present recovery strategy is essential for the survival and recovery of the species but it is insufficient to reach the population objectives. The schedule of studies presented in Section 2.5.4 outlines the research deemed necessary to complete the identification of critical habitat in order to meet population and distribution objectives.


2.5.2 Information and methods used to identify critical habitat

During two workshops held in 2009 and 2010 with the participation of the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec, Fisheries and Oceans Canada reviewed the information and used the new data to identify habitat use by the Copper Redhorse in the St. Lawrence and Richelieu rivers (DFO, 2010a). In October 2010, the Copper Redhorse Recovery Team recommended, among other things, that the habitat used by the Copper Redhorse in the Rivière des Prairies and Rivière des Milles Îles be identified as critical habitat. These two rivers were not discussed during the workshops due to a lack of time. The identification of critical habitat in the recovery strategy is based on the information gathered during the two workshops (summarized below) and the Recovery Team recommendation.

Spawning habitat
In order to identify the critical spawning habitat of the Copper Redhorse, experts have studied the needs and probable behaviour of the species, the use of the rapids below the Chambly and Saint-Ours dams and the size of potential spawning habitat in the Richelieu River (DFO, 2010b). The spawning behaviour of the Copper Redhorse seems to involve two or more males for each female. The Copper Redhorse appears to use the same sites as the other redhorse species, and apparently experiences reduced levels of competition at these sites due to the late onset of spawning. Indications suggest that it possesses a certain capacity to adapt to environmental conditions and remains relatively faithful to spawning sites. The area required for spawning was estimated to be 1 m2 per female (trio) which corresponds to a minimum required area of 2000 m2 for 2000 females (to meet the objective of 4000 mature individuals). This value was extrapolated from known data from other redhorse species. The size of the potential spawning sites in the Richelieu River is estimated at 583 064 m2 (Chambly: 488 364 m2 and Saint-Ours: 94 700 m2). This potential area has been calculated based on the location of the spawning grounds, the drifting of eggs, resting places for spawners and the variability of the substrate and hydraulic conditions. Thus, the critical spawning habitat identified in this recovery strategy appears sufficient to meet the objective of a recovered population of 4000 Copper Redhorse spawners.

Rearing and migration habitat
The habitats frequented by young-of-the-year and sub-adults may be generally described as shallow littoral zones exposed to weak currents and with aquatic-grass beds. These habitats are relatively evenly distributed all along the Richelieu River and the size of the grass beds available in the Richelieu River remains unknown. This is why a bathymetric approach has been recommended to identify critical juvenile rearing habitat. Given the current hydrological conditions of the Richelieu River, restoration of lost grass beds would be problematic. The littoral zone frequented by juvenile Copper Redhorse is between 0 and 3 m deep. However, the critical habitat which has been identified in the Richelieu River covers the littoral zone which is 0 to 4 m deep in order to include the migration corridor used by spawners.

Adult feeding habitat
Adult feeding habitat was identified using modeling based on the telemetric monitoring of habitat use and on twelve habitat variables (for example: depth, current velocity, vegetation density). Habitat modeling was applied for the St. Lawrence River, Lake Saint-Louis and Lake Saint-Pierre. It was not applied to the Rivière des Prairies and Rivière des Mille Îles, but use of the lower stretches of these rivers was confirmed with recent telemetry and historic data. In the St. Lawrence River, between Beauharnois and Trois-Rivières, the size of the potential habitat for rearing and feeding does not seem to be a limiting factor in reaching recovery objectives. However, the size of the habitat currently being used, as confirmed by telemetry, and identified as critical habitat does appear limiting and is restricted to the fluvial reach between Montreal and Sorel. According to the model, habitat potential in the fluvial lakes is very high though use by Copper Redhorse remains marginal. However, the habitat available between Montreal and Sorel, which is smaller in size (between 25 and 35 km2 depending on flow rates), is highly frequented. Critical adult feeding habitat is consequently identified as habitat in the fluvial reach between Montreal and Sorel presenting the attributes that were used in the model listed in Table 3. This habitat will be insufficient to support a recovered population of 4000 spawners who will require an estimated 260 km2 of adult feeding habitat (DFO, 2010a).


2.5.3 Description of critical habitat

The Copper Redhorse’s identified critical habitat includes three features supporting specific vital functions of the life cycle: the grass beds, the littoral zone, and the rapids. Their attributes are listed in Table 3.

Table 3. Summary of the attributes and functions of critical habitat
FunctionsFeatureLocationAttributes
Spawning, incubation (May, June, July)RapidsRichelieu River, downstream of Saint-Ours and Chambly damsDepth between 0.75 to 2 m
Spawning, incubation (May, June, July)RapidsRichelieu River, downstream of Saint-Ours and Chambly damsWeak to moderate current (0.2 to 0.6 m/s)
Spawning, incubation (May, June, July)RapidsRichelieu River, downstream of Saint-Ours and Chambly damsHeterogeneous substrate consisting of fine to coarse gravel, rocks and sometimes blocks embedded in clay.
Rearing and feedingLittoral zoneRichelieu River, from the Chambly basin to the river mouth0 to 4 m deep
Rearing and feedingLittoral zoneRichelieu River, from the Chambly basin to the river mouthMinor slopes (less than 20 degrees)
Rearing and feedingLittoral zoneRichelieu River, from the Chambly basin to the river mouthWeak to moderate current (less than 0.5 m/s)
Rearing and feedingLittoral zoneRichelieu River, from the Chambly basin to the river mouthPresence of vegetation
Rearing and feedingLittoral zoneRichelieu River, from the Chambly basin to the river mouthRelatively fine substrate (mixture of clay-silt-sand)
MigrationLittoral zoneRichelieu River, from the Chambly basin to the river mouth0 to 4 m deep
Adult feedingGrass bedsSt. Lawrence River, between Montréal and Sorel
Rivière des Prairies
Rivière des Milles Îles
0 to 4 m deep
Adult feedingGrass bedsSt. Lawrence River, between Montréal and Sorel
Rivière des Prairies
Rivière des Milles Îles
Weak to moderate current (less than 0.5 m/s)
Adult feedingGrass bedsSt. Lawrence River, between Montréal and Sorel
Rivière des Prairies
Rivière des Milles Îles
Relatively fine substrate
Adult feedingGrass bedsSt. Lawrence River, between Montréal and Sorel
Rivière des Prairies
Rivière des Milles Îles
Medium to high vegetation density, composed primarily of Vallisneria americana and Potamogeton sp.
Adult feedingGrass bedsSt. Lawrence River, between Montréal and Sorel
Rivière des Prairies
Rivière des Milles Îles
Abundance of gastropods and dreissenids

Spawning habitat
Spawning critical habitat includes the only two known spawning grounds of the Copper Redhorse, located in the Richelieu River, below the Saint-Ours dam (Figure 4) and in the Chambly rapids (Figure 5). The spawning grounds are used by the Copper Redhorse during the months of May, June and July. The attributes of these spawning grounds are listed in Table 3.

 


Figure 4. Critical spawning habitat of the Copper Redhorse at the Saint-Ours dam

Critical spawning habitat of the Copper Redhorse at the Saint-Ours dam (see long description below).

Description of Figure 4

Critical spawning habitat of the copper redhorse at the Saint-Ours dam. It corresponds to the area immediately located below the Saint-Ours dam and delineated east by the left bank of Île Darvard down to its northern tip and west, by the left bank of the Richelieu River

 


Figure 5. Critical spawning habitat of the Copper Redhorse at the Chambly dam

Critical spawning habitat of the Copper Redhorse at the Chambly dam. (see long description below).

Description of Figure 5

Critical spawning habitat of the copper redhorse at the Chambly dam. It corresponds to the area immediately located below the Chambly dam and includes the Chambly rapids archipelago.


Rearing and migration habitat
Critical habitat in the Richelieu River includes the littoral zone of the river, with a depth of 0 to 4 m, from the Chambly basin to the mouth of the river (Figure 6 and Figure 7), where submerged aquatic vegetation can be found (Table 3). The Richelieu River is the only watercourse in which larvae and young-of-the-year Copper Redhorse have been observed. Juvenile redhorse (less than 100 mm), such as the Copper Redhorse, are confined to the grass beds of the littoral zone. Critical habitat for the growth of juveniles corresponds to the grass beds, which present the attributes listed in Table 3, in the littoral zone of the Richelieu River (with a depth of 0 to 4 m). These grass beds, which play a key role during the rearing stage (growth, food and shelter), are not only important habitat for juveniles, but also for adults who frequent the river or use it as a migration corridor. Adults migrating between the St. Lawrence River and the spawning grounds use the littoral zone, with a depth of 0 to 4 m, in the Richelieu River.

Adult feeding habitat
The critical adult feeding habitat which has been identified is located in the St. Lawrence River, between Montreal and Sorel and in the Rivière des Prairies and Rivière des Mille Îles. The critical habitat in the St. Lawrence River, located in a bounding area from the eastern tip of Île Notre-Dame (Figure 8) to the mouth of the Richelieu River (Figure 9), corresponds to gastropod-rich grass beds with the attributes described in Table 3. The potential locations of these grass beds were modeled using telemetry surveys and habitat variables; this model is illustrated in green in Figures figure8 and figure9. Critical habitat identified in the Rivière des Prairies and Rivière des Mille Îles, also corresponds to gastropod-rich grass beds with the attributes described in Table 3, within a bounding area extending from longitudes 73° 37′ 11″ W (des Prairies) and 73° 35′ 31″ W (des Milles Îles) to the river mouths. Potential locations of grass beds were not modeled in these rivers.

 


Figure 6. Critical rearing and migration habitat in the upstream reaches of the Richelieu River

Critical rearing and migration habitat in the upstream reaches of the Richelieu River (see long description below).

Description of Figure 6

Critical rearing and migration habitat in the upstream reaches of the Richelieu River. Identified critical habitat corresponds to the littoral zone between 0 and 4 m depth (coloured in red), from the Chambly basin (upstream) extending to the river mouth.

 


Figure 7. Critical rearing and migration habitat in the downstream reaches of the Richelieu River

Critical rearing and migration habitat in the downstream reaches of the Richelieu River (see long description below).

Description of Figure 7

Critical rearing and migration habitat in the downstream reaches of the Richelieu River. Identified critical habitat corresponds to the littoral zone between 0 and 4 m depth (coloured in red), from the Chambly basin (downstream) extending to the river mouth.

 


Figure 8. Bounding area (in black) in which critical adult feeding habitat corresponds to grass beds presenting the attributes listed in Table 3

Bounding area (see long description below).

Description of Figure 8

Bounding area (in black) in which critical adult feeding habitat corresponds to grass beds presenting the attributes listed in Table 3. Coloured in green are the areas thought to possess adult feeding critical habitat attributes in the Montréal region of the St. Lawrence River, based on a model. Stretches of the Rivière des Prairies and the Rivière des Mille Îles containing critical habitat begins at longitude 73° 35′ 31″ W in the Rivière des Milles Îles and at longitude 73° 37′ 11″ W in the Rivière des Prairies. The modeled critical habitat is located in the fluvial reach from the eastern tip of Île Sainte-Hélène and Île Notre-Dame to Verchères and corresponds mainly to the grass beds around the islands in this area.

 

Figure 9. Bounding area (in black) in which critical adult feeding habitat corresponds to grass beds presenting the attributes listed in Table 3

Bounding area (see long description below).

Description of Figure 9

Bounding area (in black) in which critical adult feeding habitat corresponds to grass beds presenting the attributes listed in Table 3. Coloured in green are the areas thought to possess adult feeding critical habitat attributes in the Contrecœur region of the St. Lawrence River, based on a model. The modeled critical habitat corresponds to grass beds located mainly around the islands in this area of the fluvial reach between Verchères and Sorel-Tracy.


2.5.4 Schedule of studies to identify critical habitat

The present recovery strategy includes the critical habitat identified to the extent possible, based on the best available information. The quantity and quality of habitat suitable for the growth of adults identified for the purposes of this recovery strategy do not appear sufficient to provide an adequate environment for a population containing 4000 mature individuals. The fluvial lakes may offer adequate habitat for the Copper Redhorse, but their use by this species is not well documented. Studies need to be conducted to identify the entire critical habitat necessary to attain the population and distribution objectives (Table 4).

 

Table 4. Schedule of studies
Description of activityResults/rationaleTimeline
Identify the grass beds in Lake Saint-Pierre, Lake Saint-Louis and in the de la Prairie basin which exhibit the necessary attributes of critical feeding habitat for adult Copper Redhorse.Identify feeding and growth areas for adults in order to meet population and distribution objectives2016

2.5.5 Examples of activities likely to result in the destruction of critical habitat

Any activity that modifies the attributes presented in Table 3 of the features of identified critical habitat can cause its destruction. As habitat use varies in time, any human activity must be assessed on a case-by-case basis and mitigation measures have to be applied when available and be efficient. The activities described in Table 5 are not exhaustive and are taken from the General Threats described in section 1.5 of this recovery strategy. The absence of a specific human activity does not preclude, or fetter the department’s ability to regulate it pursuant to SARA. Furthermore, the inclusion of an activity does not result in its automatic prohibition because it is the destruction of critical habitat that is prohibited and not the activity itself.

Bank stabilization through the use of riprap or the construction of retaining walls leads to shoreline hardening which, in turn, modifies plant composition and water flow in the grass beds. The deforestation of banks prevents containment of runoff and results in soil erosion, leading to increases in water temperature. In-filling wetlands or grass beds and construction of certain types of docks or other structures within habitat areas lead to the modification or destruction of these habitats. Dredging and the deposition of sediments destroy streambeds, particularly through the disappearance of aquatic grass beds. In addition, many pleasure-boating activities may cause degradation of the substrate by augmenting turbidity, destroying aquatic vegetation and trampling substrates.

Finally, flood control structures and hydroelectric installations which modify water input into the critical habitats of the Copper Redhorse may alter or destroy these habitats. Structures which present obstacles to both upstream and downstream migration may destroy critical habitat.

Under SARA, critical habitat must be legally protected from destruction once it is identified. This will be accomplished through a s.58 Order, which will prohibit the destruction of the identified critical habitat unless permitted by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada pursuant to the conditions of SARA.

 

Table 5. Examples of activities likely to destroy critical habitat
ActivitiesPathway of effectsDisrupted functionDisrupted featureDisrupted attributes
Construction of damsModification of hydraulic conditionsSpawningRapids
  • Depth between 0.75 and 2 m
  • Weak to moderate current (0.2 to 0.6 m/s)
  • Heterogeneous substrate (fine to coarse gravel, cobble)
Construction of damsModification of hydraulic conditionsFeeding
Rearing
Grass beds
Littoral zone
  • Depth from 0 to 4 m
  • Weak to moderate current (less than 0.5 m/s)
  • Minor slope (less than 20 degrees)
  • Relatively fine substrate
  • Moderate to high vegetation density
  • Abundance of gastropods and dreissenids
Construction of damsObstacle to migrationMigrationLittoral zone
  • Depth from 0 to 4 m
Construction (dock, bridge, marina, etc.)Destruction of grass beds
Sedimentation
Feeding
Rearing
Littoral zone
Grass beds
  • Depth from 0 to 4 m
  • Weak to moderate current (less than 0.5 m/s)
  • Minor slope (less than 20 degrees)
  • Relatively fine substrate
  • Moderate to high vegetation density
  • Abundance of gastropods and dreissenids
In-fillingDestruction of grass bedsFeeding
Rearing
Littoral zone
Grass beds
  • Depth from 0 to 4 m
  • Weak to moderate current (less than 0.5 m/s)
  • Minor slope (less than 20 degrees)
  • Relatively fine substrate
  • Moderate to high vegetation density
  • Abundance of gastropods and dreissenids
Bank construction (retaining wall, rip-rap, etc.)Destruction of grass beds
Sedimentation
Feeding
Rearing
Littoral zone
  • Depth from 0 to 4 m
  • Weak to moderate current (less than 0.5 m/s)
  • Minor slope (less than 20 degrees)
  • Relatively fine substrate
  • Moderate to high vegetation density
  • Abundance of gastropods and dreissenids
NavigationWave action from passing boats reducing grass beds
Destruction of aquatic vegetation
Feeding
Rearing
Littoral zone
Grass beds
  • Relatively fine substrate
  • Moderate to high vegetation density
  • Abundance of gastropods and dreissenids
Dredging and deposition of sedimentsDestruction of streambedFeeding
Rearing
Grass beds
  • Relatively fine substrate
  • Moderate to high vegetation density
  • Abundance of gastropods and dreissenids
Pleasure-boating activitiesCrushing and destruction of aquatic vegetationSpawningRapids
  • Heterogeneous substrate (fine to coarse gravel, cobble)
Pleasure-boating activitiesCrushing and destruction of aquatic vegetationFeeding
Rearing
Littoral zone
Grass beds
  • Relatively fine substrate
  • Moderate to high vegetation density
  • Abundance of gastropods and dreissenids

2.6 Knowledge gaps

Despite the considerable effort made to gather information on such a rare species, knowledge gaps subsist and have been identified. This lack of knowledge must be addressed before the development of a comprehensive and adequate strategy for the recovery of the Copper Redhorse is possible.


2.6.1 Reproduction and spawning grounds

There are other potential spawning grounds (Figure 3), though reproductive activity in these sites has never been confirmed. These potential spawning grounds need to be further assessed to ensure that they possess the requisite characteristics.


2.6.2 Immature fish

Information has been gathered on certain aspects of the growth, nutritional needs, and habitat of larvae and juveniles, which include young-of-the-year and fish that are one year old in the spring (between 25 mm and 60 mm). A fry rearing ground has also been identified in the Richelieu River. However, there is still a lack of knowledge about larvae (under 25 mm) and sub-adults, fish between one and ten years of age with lengths varying between 100 and 500 mm. Knowledge about these groups and their habitats is very fragmentary and is limited to a few captures.

Many questions still remain concerning the distribution range and habitat of immature Copper Redhorse, particularly about the downstream migration and survival of larvae, the presence of sites in the Richelieu River where juveniles congregate, habitat characteristics, and the threats to the habitat and survival of sub-adult fish.


2.6.3 Adults

The adult population is composed primarily of older fish and available knowledge indicates that the level of reproduction is low. The mechanisms of absorption and the physiological effects of contaminants (atrazine, other pesticides, pharmaceutical and personal hygiene products) originating in municipal, industrial, and agricultural waste have not yet been clearly delineated, though they are suspected of acting as hormone and reproduction disruptors. Studies conducted on the Spottail Shiner (Notropis hudsonius), a cyprinid common to the Great Lakes basin and exposed to the wastewater outfall from Montreal, have revealed a high prevalence of feminizationFootnote 14 in specimens.

It is possible that the methods used to gather information on the total distribution range skewed the results partially to the detriment of Lake Saint-Louis. The information obtained through an analysis of the commercial fishery in Lake Saint-Pierre is based on incidental catches, while research activity itself is concentrated on the portion of the population located in the Richelieu River and St. Lawrence River, downstream of Montreal. Moreover, no sampling program has been carried out in the Noire River and Yamaska River since 1995. Though these environments have been severely degraded and minimum water flow within them greatly reduced, neither the presence nor absence of the species in these rivers can be confirmed. Questions also remain concerning factors (e.g. inadequate grass beds) which could explain why some areas of potential summer habitat in the fluvial lakes are less frequented by Copper Redhorse.

When invasive exotic species such as the Tench, Round Goby, zebra mussel, European water chestnut and common water reed establish themselves in an environment, they bring changes to the physical environment and to the food chain. However, the effects of these introduced species on the Copper Redhorse population have not been sufficiently well documented.

Current knowledge on winter habitat remains fragmentary and is solely based on the telemetric monitoring of 11 fish during the winter of 2008.

Despite these knowledge gaps, the available information on the Copper Redhorse is significant and of high quality considering how rare the species is. Further efforts to collect more information should avoid manipulation of specimens as much as possible as this presents a threat to the survival of the species.

2.7 Existing and recommended approaches to habitat protection

The Regulation respecting the Pierre-Étienne-Fortin Wildlife Preserve, R.Q.c. C-61.1, r.3.01.3.3, provides protection measures for the spawning ground at the Chambly rapids. The land on which the wildlife preserve is located is owned by Hydro-Québec and the municipality of Richelieu. According to sections 3 and 4 of the Regulation, “From 20 June to 20 July, no person may enter, stay in, travel about or engage in any activity in sectors B and C of the wildlife preserve” and “No person may, in the wildlife preserve, engage in an activity that may alter any biological, physical or chemical element of the habitat of the Copper Redhorse, the River Redhorse or the Channel Darter (Percina copelandi).” (c. C-61.1, r.46, sections 3 and 4). For critical habitat to be adequately protected, the preserve will need to be extended to include all the spawning grounds.

The Saint-Ours Canal National Historic Site on the Richelieu River, together with the bridge-dam and fish ladder, the adjacent west bank and l'île Darvard fall under the jurisdiction of the Parks Canada Agency. The tailrace of the dam is a known spawning ground, while the fish ladder represents a necessary stage in the migration of Copper Redhorse towards the Chambly spawning ground.

Environment Canada’s Canadian Wildlife Service owns several islands in the Contrecoeur archipelago which have been declared national wildlife areas under the Wildlife Area Regulations (C.R.C., c. 1609) of the Canadian Wildlife Act. The Îles de Contrecœur National Wildlife Area covers 312 hectares and includes eleven islands in the archipelago.

The Île Jeannotte and Île aux Cerfs, located downstream of the Chambly basin in the Richelieu River were acquired by the NCC. Ownership of Île aux Cerfs has since passed to the MRNF. The shoreline of these islands is thus protected from urban development. This also provides protection for the grass beds around the archipelago. Creation of a wildlife refuge on these islands is in the planning stage.

2.8 Progress towards recovery

The performance indicators presented below provide a way to define and measure progress toward achieving the population and distribution objectives. Specific progress towards implementing the recovery strategy will be measured against indicators outlined in subsequent action plans.

Performance indicators

  • Increase in the number of adults inventoried at the Vianney-Legendre fish ladder during the upstream migration;
  • Percentage of 3% of redhorse captured during sampling initiatives which are Copper Redhorse;
  • Percentage of 3% of juvenile redhorse inventoried in the Richelieu River that are Copper Redhorse;
  • Increase in the number and percentage of juveniles sampled in the Richelieu River coming from natural reproduction;
  • Maintain at least two spawning grounds used by the species;
  • Increase in the number of individuals inventoried in Lake Saint-Louis, Lake Saint-Pierre, the Rivière des Mille Îles and the Rivière des Prairies;
  • Maintaining the area, in km2, of the Copper Redhorse distribution range.

2.9 Activities permitted by the recovery strategy

The Species at Risk Act stipulates that “No person shall kill, harm, harass, capture or take an individual of a wildlife species that is listed as an extirpated species, an endangered species or a threatened species.” (subsection 32 (1)). Under subsection 83(4) of the Species at Risk Act, “Subsections 32(1) and (2), section 33 and subsections 36(1), 58(1), 60(1) and 61(1) do not apply to a person who is engaging in activities that are permitted by a recovery strategy, an action plan or a management plan and who is also authorized under an Act of Parliament to engage in that activity, including a regulation made under section 53, 59 or 71.

Fisheries
Although fishing for Copper Redhorse is prohibited in Quebec, incidental catches occur in the commercial and sport fisheries. The immediate release of this fish is mandatory, according to the Quebec Fishery Regulations (1990), SOR/90-214 of the Fisheries Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. F-14. As mentioned in the “Threats” section, the risk of accidental mortalities caused by commercial fisheries is very low. An outreach project aimed at commercial fishermen in Lac Saint-Pierre to assess Copper Redhorse bycatch, determined that no Copper Redhorse was incidentally caught by these fishermen (Comité ZIP du lac Saint-Pierre, 2010). The mortality risk owing to commercial fisheries in the river stretches upstream of the lake is not considered detrimental to the Copper Redhorse because the only permit for fyke nets will be bought back (P. Dumont, MRNF, personal communication) and gill nets used for fishing sturgeon and carp are unlikely to capture Copper Redhorse (Vachon and Chagnon, 2004; Chagnon, 2006c, b, a).

In accordance with subsection 83(4) of SARA, this recovery strategy authorizes fishermen to carry out sport or commercial fishing subject to the following conditions:

  • fishing is carried out in accordance with a sport or commercial fishing license issued under the provisions of the Quebec Fishery Regulations (1990), SOR/90-214;
  • any person who incidentally catches a Copper Redhorse while fishing shall without delay return the fish to the waters in which it was caught and, if the fish is alive, release it in a manner that causes the least harm to the fish.

Furthermore, in accordance with subsection 83(4) of SARA, this recovery strategy authorizes fishermen to fish under the provisions of an aboriginal communal fishing licence, subject to the following conditions:

  • fishing is carried out in accordance with a communal licence issued under the provisions of the Aboriginal Communal Fishing Licences Regulations, SOR/93-332;
  • any person who incidentally catches a Copper Redhorse while fishing shall without delay return the fish to the waters in which it was caught and, if the fish is alive, release it in a manner that causes the least harm to the fish.

Research
Beginning in 2004, an artificial reproduction plan was implemented to counter the low rate of natural reproduction. The objective of the plan is to rebuild the reproductive stock by preserving at least 90% of the initial genetic diversity of the population over a period of 100 years (Bernatchez, 2004). Artificial reproduction is carried out by the MRNF at Park Canada facilities, with the support of DFO since 2009.

In accordance with subsection 83(4) of SARA, this strategy authorizes employees of the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec, while performing their duties, to carry out activities related to the Copper Redhorse artificial reproduction programme, with the following conditions:

  • These activities are authorized by subsection 3(3) of the Quebec Fishery Regulations (1990), SOR/90-214;
  • There has to be a constant monitoring of the net and the fish have to be taken out immediately after capture;
  • Spawners are manipulated with caution, in priority and are under constant supervision from qualified personnel;
  • Specimens are to be handled under anaesthetic and in accordance to the Guidelines for the Use of Fishes in Research (2004) of the American Fisheries Society;
  • The location of the artificial reproduction is not accessible to the public in order to reduce disruption. The area is secured and emergency measures are in place in case of an electricity shortage to ensure adequate water supply to the tanks.

A protocol for the monitoring of redhorse young-of-the-year recruitment in the Richelieu River has been designed and implemented on an almost yearly basis. The objective of this project is to develop a performance index with which to evaluate present and future conservation and support measures. Certain preliminary trends have been detected in population abundance, young-of-the-year growth and the climatic and hydrological conditions of the environment (Vachon, 1999b, 2002, 2007). These efforts have also confirmed the short-term survival of juvenile Copper Redhorse introduced into the environment as part of the stocking program and have added to our knowledge of older juveniles.

In accordance with subsection 83(4) of SARA, this strategy authorizes employees of the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec, while performing their duties, to carry out activities related to the recruitment monitoring programme, with the following conditions:

  • These activities are authorized by subsection 3(3) of the Quebec Fishery Regulations (1990), SOR/90-214;
  • There is priority sorting of species at risk such as Copper Redhorse, Eastern Sand Darter and Channel Darter;
  • All one-year or older specimens of Copper Redhorse are measured and released back into the water after a tissue sample;
  • Species at risk other than Copper Redhorse will be measured and released back into the water.

There is a lack of knowledge about subadults, fish between one and ten years of age with lengths varying between 100 and 500 mm. Knowledge about this group and its habitat is fragmentary and is limited to a few captures. A research effort on this segment of the population (objective 3 of this strategy) will be necessary to better protect it.

In accordance with subsection 83(4) of SARA, this strategy authorizes employees of the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec, while performing their duties, to carry out activities related to the subadult monitoring program, with the following conditions:

  • These activities are authorized by subsection 3(3) of the Quebec Fishery Regulations (1990), SOR/90-214;
  • Sampling is carried out using safe gear such as fyke nets, seines and trawls;
  • There is priority sorting of species at risk such as Copper Redhorse, Eastern Sand Darter and Channel Darter;
  • All specimens of Copper Redhorse are measured and released back into the water after a tissue sample;
  • Species at risk other than Copper Redhorse will be measured and released back into the water.

2.10 Statement on action plans

One or more action plans will be published on the Species at Risk Public Registry by June 2017.

Footnotes

Footnote 12

Parks Canada, DFO, Department of Transport Canada, Economic Development Agency, MRNF, Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec, Fondation de la faune du Québec and Projet Rescousse.

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Footnote 13

The committee consisted of representatives from DFO, MRNF and Parks Canada Agency.

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Footnote 14

Feminization is the hormonally induced development of female sexual characteristics.

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