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Recovery Strategy for the Shortnose Cisco (Coregonus reighardi) in Canada

6. Conservation approach

Conservation or recovery of the Shortnose Cisco, as assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), is not feasible as it has not been observed in over 25 years from the lakes where it once occurred. However, the collection of a single specimen from any of these locations or from any new location would provide new hope for the species. As such, any conservation efforts for the species should be directed first at confirming its current status through the utilization of education, management and, research strategies.


Education:

Despite significant fishing and sampling efforts, the last Shortnose Cisco was reported from Lake Huron in1985. Even prior to this date, observations of Shortnose Cisco were rare usually consisting of only a few specimens per year (Webb and Todd 1995, COSEWIC 2005). Given its historical rarity and the duration since last reported, the species is most likely extinct. Nonetheless, efforts should be continued to document any occurrences of the species. Anyone fishing for deepwater ciscoes, including commercial fishermen and research/assessment crews, should be made aware of the remote possibility of encountering the Shortnose Cisco and should be provided with basic information and an identification guide to help distinguish it from other co-occurring cisco species. Appropriate protocols and scientific authorities should be identified in advance to assist with sample identification, reporting of information, and archiving of samples, in the event that the species is encountered again.


Management:

Overfishing precipitated the collapse and likely prevented the recovery of Shortnose Cisco populations in the Great Lakes through non-specific management and targeting by the chub fishery. As such, any conservation efforts for the Shortnose Cisco would likely have to be directed at the chub fishery as a whole. Until its existence is confirmed, no management actions are recommended specifically for the Shortnose Cisco at this time. However, given that the Shortnose Cisco is only one of a number of deepwater ciscoes deemed to be “at risk” by COSEWIC in the Great Lakes including the Deepwater Cisco (Extinct), the Shortjaw Cisco (Threatened), Blackfin Cisco (Threatened)Footnote 1, and Kiyi (Special Concern), it would be prudent to develop management plans geared towards the conservation of the cisco species complex as a whole. Periodic monitoring of commercial chub catches would help to confirm the status of the Shortnose Cisco.


Research:

Difficulties in distinguishing individual species within the Great Lakes deepwater cisco flock, and the consequent lack of knowledge of their life history and habitat requirements, have severely hampered efforts to effectively manage and protect these species. Therefore, further research to resolve taxonomic uncertainties surrounding the identification of individual species, including the Shortnose Cisco, should be continued. New technologies and innovative approaches, especially in the field of genetics, have the potential to help overcome some of the barriers to species identification using conventional taxonomic approaches.

As for any potential “new” occurrences of Shortnose Cisco, some recent research using stable isotope analysis on archived specimens from Lake Superior (Schmidt et al. 2009) indicated that there are discernable differences in trophic niche partitioning between what were formerly called Shortnose Cisco and the Shortjaw Cisco. The previously identified “Shortnose Cisco” from Lake Superior and Lake Nipigon were synonymized with Shortjaw Cisco in the 1980s (Todd 1980, Todd and Smith 1980). Although the stable isotope analysis is not definitive, it does suggest that the status of Shortnose Cisco in Lake Superior warrants further investigation. Further stable isotope analysis and genetic testing of Shortjaw Cisco from Lake Superior may help resolve whether these populations include, or may have included, the Shortnose Cisco.

In support of the actions identified in this section, continued examination of cisco collections by ongoing U.S. Geological Surveys, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada monitoring programs for Shortnose Cisco, and other co-occurring deepwater cisco species, in Lakes Huron and Superior is recommended.

Footnotes

Footnote 1

COSEWIC 1988 assessment (current status under Schedule 2 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA).) - COSEWIC 2007 assessment “data deficient”.

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